What are Distinctive Competencies?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

Also known as core capabilities or core competencies, distinctive competencies are the talents and collective experience that are inherent within the work force of a given company. These essential characteristics are considered highly desirable, since they provide the business with what it needs to be competitive in the marketplace, provide value to customers, and ultimately achieve the goals and aims of the company. There is no one ideal combination of these talents and experience, since the tools needed by different companies will vary.

Businessman giving a thumbs-up
Businessman giving a thumbs-up

In order to assess if the distinctive competencies necessary for allowing the business to compete in the marketplace and reach its goals, each talent or ability must be assessed. In order to be of value to the business effort, it must be one that increases the potential for providing benefit to the customer. While the competency does not have to directly lead to this end, it must contribute to the process at some point in the fulfillment chain.

Distinctive competencies are also somewhat difficult for the competition to copy or imitate. This difficulty may stem from finding it hard to attract employees with similar levels and types of competency, or an inability to obtain individuals who can also bring the same level of experience to the business effort. In either case, competitors find it hard to create the same mixture of resources, and thus are not able to execute the same type of business plans with similar success.

One of the ways that a business continues to evolve is by constantly evaluating the extraordinary abilities or distinctive competencies needed to take the operation to the next level. As a company expands its client base, needs that were not present in the past are likely to arise. By seeking out people who have the talents needed to meet those needs, or cultivating those talents among the existing workforce, the business is able to position itself to not only hold on to its current customers, but also reach into new sectors of the consumer market, allowing it to go places that the competition has yet to discover.

Any successful business will involve the presence and the efficient utilization of distinctive competencies. Small businesses may exhibit core abilities such as a strong customer service ethic that helps them compete with larger and more established businesses. Mail order companies may hire people with a talent for creating an outstanding order process that ensures quick delivery to customers. Manufacturing plants may have people who are especially gifted in designing a process control strategy that eliminates waste of raw materials and allows the business to lower the overall cost of production. As long as the talent or expertise is considered crucial or key to the function of the operation, it can rightly be considered a distinctive competency.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments


This may be just me, but to me the whole idea of distinctive competencies kind of sounds like a personality assessment for businesses. Though I know it's much more complicated and in-depth than that, I think that it kind of works, because people do tend to get a "feel" from businesses.

For example, I often have a tendency to think of larger businesses as cold or smaller businesses as friendly or trustworthy. Perhaps this could be an interesting angle for a marketing specialist to explore?


I'm sure that companies, big or small, need to pay close attention to the abilities that people have when they are interviewed for a job. They have to be competent in specific job requirements. Just as important, most need to have good people skills. Being able to work well with co-workers and also with customers or clients really makes a difference.

I think that when companies go in a different direction, they should try to train the employees they have in the new competencies. I think this is better than replacing them with new employees.

Post your comments
Forgot password?