"YOU WOULD HAVE BEEN VERY successful in selecting the five top-performing firms from 1972 to 1992 if you took conventional wisdom and turned it on its head. The five top stocks, and their percentage returns, were: Plenum Publishing (with a return of 15,689%), Circuit City (16,410%), Tyson Foods (18,118%), Wal-Mart [Stores] (19,807%), and Southwest Airlines (21,775%).
Yet during this period, these industries (retailing, airlines, publishing, and food processing) were characterized by massive competition and horrendous losses, widespread bankruptcy, virtually no barriers to entry, little unique or proprietary technology, and many substitute products or services. What these five successful firms tend to have in common is that for their sustained advantage, they rely not on technology, patents, or strategic position, but on how they manage their workforce.
Achieving competitive success through people involves fundamentally altering how we think about the workforce and the employment re-lationship. It means achieving success by working with people, not by replacing them or limiting the scope of their activities. It entails seeing the work force as a source of strategic advantage, not just as a cost to be minimized or avoided. Firms that take this different perspective are often able to successfully outmaneuver and outperform their rivals."