Background Note | HBS Case Collection | January 1998 (Revised February 2006)

Creating Competitive Advantage

by Pankaj Ghemawat and Jan W. Rivkin

Abstract

A firm such as Schering-Plough that earns superior, long-run financial returns within its industry is said to enjoy a competitive advantage over its rivals. This note examines the logic of how firms create competitive advantage. It emphasizes two themes: First, to create an advantage, a firm must configure itself to do something unique and valuable. The firm must ensure that, were it to disappear, someone in its network of suppliers, customers, and complementors would miss it and no one could replace it perfectly. The first section uses the concept of "added value" to make this point more precisely. Second, competitive advantage usually comes from the full range of a firm's activities--from production to finance, from marketing to logistics--acting in harmony. The essence of creating advantage is finding an integrated set of choices that distinguishes a firm from its rivals. The second section shows how managers can analyze the full range of activities to understand the sources of added value.

Keywords: Competitive Advantage; Competitive Strategy; Management; Business Strategy; Growth and Development Strategy; Innovation Strategy; Management Practices and Processes; Value Creation; Pharmaceutical Industry;

Citation:

Ghemawat, Pankaj, and Jan W. Rivkin. "Creating Competitive Advantage." Harvard Business School Background Note 798-062, January 1998. (Revised February 2006.)