Third-party perspective and comparing one’s self to others is how we as human beings maintain a frame of reference regarding a goal we are working toward.
Also known as “benchmarking,” this process of comparative analysis may benefit you as a Formula 1 race car driver or a marathon runner, but it in no way helps you reach the significance many business leaders or entrepreneurs hope to achieve.
What I have come to find in the decades I have helped business leaders, CEOs, and entrepreneurs is that the act of benchmarking in business is a hindrance, as it does not give you and your organization that motivation to push harder. Instead, what happens time and again is a business leader looks at their competitor’s product, service, or process and consciously or often unconsciously ends up mimicking it!
Why does this happen, and how can you as a leader resist the urge to benchmark against the competition? I have five tips that can put a stop to counterproductive professional benchmarking, but first, understand this: The competition isn’t really competition, as we are all on the same team in one way or another.
Pablo Picasso coined this iconic phrase, which in full went as follows: “Good artists copy, great artists steal.” This was said in reference to the fact that Picasso himself felt he could have never painted some of his most notable work without the prior influence of other art forms and cultures. The same can be said about innovators, contemporary creators, and many entrepreneurs of our time in many cases.
Whether you consciously or unconsciously copy something from who you perceive as being your competition in business, this occurs because a company has disrupted you. This then causes an agile reaction in you as a business leader, scrambling to lead from behind and keep up with the rate of change while looking at the disruptor as a threat.
It is difficult not to compare yourself to others you perceive as a threat to your survival, especially in business. A career in contemporary society is about making money to pay the bills, eat, provide for your family, and survive — how is it not a competition?
What you are really struggling with in this scenario is the disruption itself, not the individual or organization that put it into motion. With the principles of my Anticipatory Leader System, the ability to use Hard Trend future certainties to your advantage and set the standard for your industry is available to all, and those who master these skills generally reach it first.
If you find that something has disrupted you and your organization, do not benchmark or copy their work, no matter how intense this compulsion may feel to you. Instead, explore these five helpful tips to develop your own plan of action in the face of disruption.
The hardest thing to do in this situation is to accept that you have been disrupted in some way. Trying to keep up is a fool’s game — chasing what has already been done means that you will only ever be as good as what the perceived competition has done. Covering those bases with feverish obsession does not help you stand out; it makes you invisible.
Time has passed, and whatever the disruption was is set in stone. The disruptor has moved on, so you should as well! Accepting the scenario and learning from it allows you to move on and start to plan for bigger and better things.
In a way, this step is a junction, and if you are currently benchmarking, you are on a metaphoric treadmill. Trying to keep up is a way of running in place, so you have a vital choice to make: Keep running and eventually get disrupted again, or get off the treadmill and start looking to be the next disruptor.
To jump off the treadmill, ask yourself this vital question: What’s the likely progression of the industry as a whole? This will open your eyes to future possibilities and allow you to leap ahead of the pack in ways you never thought possible.
In my Anticipatory Leader System, I teach business leaders and managers alike to pay attention to Hard Trends that are shaping the world, and how they will ultimately affect their industry, employees, and their own role. Leveraging these Hard Trends is the answer to the previous tip, as understanding the progression of your industry as opposed to what your perceived competitors are doing specifically allows you to better innovate.
Also, consider what type of change your industry is going through. Is it faced with cyclical changes, such as seasonal, economic, or sales cycles? Or is it going through a linear change, in the same way that we went from landlines to smartphones? When you identify a linear change, know that these are ones that provide the best opportunities, as they happen once and never again!
As you identify and leverage Hard Trends, look to leverage them exponentially. Also in my Anticipatory Leader System, I teach individuals and organizations how to think exponentially, which is a simple way to think outside of the box, so to speak. Instead of copying what has been done, think exponentially about it!
For instance, skis already exist, and ski manufacturers likely solve problems daily about traditional skis. How can you take what exists and flip it on its head entirely? What about skis can be disrupted rather than copied, with merely a new logo slapped on them? In doing so, you challenge the status quo, rather than coasting aimlessly in it.
Picasso wasn’t wrong — great artists do steal, but what he really means is that they take inspiration from great artists. Picasso did not copy identically what previous artists did, but what he did do was take his inspiration from their works and look for gaps in which he felt should be filled.
As you become the disruptor, don’t lose sight of what could disrupt you in the future. Stay keen on new Hard Trends shaping the world, keeping close watch on how you can revolutionize other areas of your industry or the world itself. This makes you the trailblazer instead of the one always following the leader.
Above all else, a shift in your mindset to an Anticipatory one will make it easy to gain advantage and maintain it into the future. This builds not only a successful organization, but a significant one that will withstand the test of time!
Daniel Burrus is considered one of the world’s leading futurists on global trends and innovation. The New York Times has referred to him as one of the top three business gurus in the highest demand as a speaker. He is a strategic advisor to executives from Fortune 500 companies, helping them to accelerate innovation and results by develop game-changing strategies based on his proven methodologies for capitalizing on technology innovations and their future impact. His client list includes companies such as Microsoft, GE, American Express, Google, Deloitte, Procter & Gamble, Honda, and IBM. He is the author of seven books, including The New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-seller Flash Foresight, and his latest book The Anticipatory Organization. He is a featured writer with millions of monthly readers on the topics of innovation, change and the future and has appeared in Harvard Business Review, Wired, CNBC, and Huffington Post to name a few. He has been the featured subject of several PBS television specials and has appeared on programs such as CNN, Fox Business, and Bloomberg, and is quoted in a variety of publications, including The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Fortune, and Forbes. He has founded six businesses, four of which were national leaders in the United States in the first year. He is the CEO of Burrus Research, a research and consulting firm that monitors global advancements in technology driven trends to help clients profit from technological, social and business forces that are converging to create enormous, untapped opportunities. In 1983 he became the first and only futurist to accurately identify the twenty technologies that would become the driving force of business and economic change for decades to come. He also linked exponential computing advances to economic value creation. His specialties are technology-driven trends, strategic innovation, strategic advising and planning, business keynote presentations.