Inch-Wide, Mile-Deep

Josh Linkner

Josh Linkner

Five-time tech entrepreneur, hyper-growth CEO, NY Times bestselling author and venture capitalist.

If you're looking to buy a new knife, the choices seem limitless. A 21-function Swiss Army knife will run you around $39 bucks, less than $2 per blade. The all-purpose tool is versatile, but none of the functions represent the highest in quality. On the other end of the spectrum, there's the Ao-Ko Mizu Honyaki Yanagi sushi knife. This single blade is terrible for peeling an apple or chopping lettuce. Yet it is the perfect blade for slicing paper-thin sushi, compelling master chefs to dish out $7,250 for the specialized instrument. Over 3,000-times more expensive per blade, yet no respectable sushi chef would even consider using the low-cost, low-performance alternative.


Too often in business, we take the Swiss Army approach. We try to be all things to all people, yet end up standing for nothing and truly serving no one. While our instincts may be to broaden our offerings and take a generalist approach, the world craves (and will pay handsomely for) laser-focused specialization. Now, more than ever, the 'inch wide and mile deep' strategy wins.

A seven-minute drive from my home, there's a diner that offers over 200 items on their menu. From pancakes to stir fry, Reuben sandwiches to spaghetti, I'm pretty sure they cover all the bases. Yet the mediocre-at-everything joint is rarely busy, and the low prices rival those of a food truck. Compare that to the legendary Peter Lugar Steakhouse in Brooklyn. A startlingly small number of options, their menu could easily fit on a post-it note. The no-frills restaurant does just one thing they make the best damn steak in the world. With lines out the door, hungry patrons travel from across the globe with fistfuls of cash (the restaurant doesn't even take credit cards) to pay homage, no matter how outlandish the price.

Being the worldwide expert in one area will simply outpunch those who diffuse their energy, passion, and expertise into many. To scale your business and career, focus your aperture and become jaw-droppingly great at just one thing. The deeper your expertise in a single area, the higher your economic results will climb. The sun may gently warm a village, but when focused with a magnifying glass, it creates fire. We must do the same.

The mile-wide, inch-deep strategy no longer carries the day. Instead, put all your eggs (and your neighbors' eggs too) in a single basket to maximize your success. A maniacal focus and world-class depth is your recipe for greatness.

And don't forget your uber-specialized sushi knife as you craft the perfect dish.

The post Inch-Wide, Mile-Deep appeared first on Josh Linkner.

Reimagine
Ayal Lanternari was facing the same angst and frustration that millions of other parents endure. His infant son was crying for food in the middle of the night, creating an agonizing moment for both dad and child while the bottle was heating to the proper temperature. Since baby milk can't be microwaved or heated directly without losing the nu...
Read More
Fender Guitar's Rules of Groundbreaking Innovation
Since Leo Fender started making guitars back in 1946, the Fender name has become synonymous with musical innovation.The iconic brand has outfitted countless music legends with their precious axes, and has set the standard with instantly recognizable inventions including the Stratocaster, Telecaster, and Jazzmaster. Today, Fender is the large...
Read More
Do It Anyway
Born in 1914 in Austria, actress Hedy Lamarr was the personification of glamor. Discovered for her beauty in her teens, she dazzled audiences from the silver screen for decades. At 19, she raised eyebrows by doing what is believed to be one of the first nude sex scenes in a movie. The film was banned by Hitler, and became a widespread controver...
Read More
Why a Culture of Innovation is the Only Path to Sustainable Growth and Success
You've fine-tuned your processes, extracted every drop of cost from the system, and are meeting basic customer needs. In the previous era of business, strict managerial controls may have been enough, but today running a tight ship is table stakes. If we're honest with ourselves, business as usual likely poses an existential threat – sooner than...
Read More
The 14 Rules of History-Making Teams
It's often been said that "culture eats strategy for breakfast." The notion is that the belief system - or core operating principles - of an organization are what matters most at the ground level. These core beliefs guide everyday decision-making, behavior, and responses to challenges. Clearly defined core values permeate every corner of a comp...
Read More
Lady Gaga's First Song; Picasso's First Painting
At the age of four, Lady Gaga wasn't bringing down the house for 30,000 roaring fans. In fact, Stefani Germanotta didn't even become the Gaga we know until she'd studied and practiced music for years. Just like every other kid who picks up an instrument, she took up piano and plunked out an uneven version of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. Pablo P...
Read More
Skip the Resolution; Go With a New Year's Theme instead
The last week of December marks the creation of uncountable New Year's resolutions. By the end of next month, however, the vast majority will be broken. So many of us resolve to change, only to have those commitments meet an untimely death. A single, small temptation can lead us astray, causing us to conclude that our resolutions are anything bu...
Read More
The Tyranny of Good Enough
Your chicken salad sandwich wasn't bad, really. It was 'good enough.' The service wasn't speedy, but also wasn't horribly slow. It was just good enough. The environment was a bit messy and a tad dirty, but didn’t justify a call to the Health Department. "I guess it was good enough," you mutter as you leave the mediocre restaurant. While the chef...
Read More
The Power of Surprise and Delight
Following the polite knock on my hotel room door, I was stunned. "Just a little something to welcome you to our hotel," said the smiling and well-appointed young man as he placed it down on the desk in my room. The beautiful display included a chocolate guitar, hand-dipped strawberries, and a few other candies. Along with some musical notes, th...
Read More
Heads Down vs. Heads Up
We've all heard people in the business world proclaim that they are "heads down" on a project. Or that they are unable to explore new opportunities since they are "heads down in execution mode." Consider, for a moment, the advantages of being "heads up" instead. Let's compare the two states of being: Heads Down Focused on delivery Tuning out dis...
Read More