No matter the industry or particular field, competition is the business of the day. Regardless of what you and your organization do in terms of products or services, there’s inevitably someone else offering a competitive alternative. Your goal is to “beat” those competitors, however that might be measured—greater sales, more customers, whatever the benchmark.
But what if you could move beyond the idea of competition? In effect, what if competition became an irrelevant, outdated dynamic that no longer applied to what you do?
Would that be a bona fide game changer? Would that move your organization past an “us versus them” struggle and promote innovation without a knee-jerk comparison to what others are doing?
This involves unplugging a well-established mind-set and, instead, developing an anticipatory outlook that both redefines and reinvents what you do.
Competition: Flirting with Failure
The media and business school textbooks are littered with examples of organizations that tried to compete, only to encounter enormous problems and often disaster. Blockbuster tried to compete by expanding its network of movie rental outlets; Dell placed its bets on growing its laptop sales.
Meanwhile, Netflix was redefining the idea of renting a movie through the convenience of streaming. Instead of laptops, other companies shifted the entire status quo through sophisticated portable phones and wearables.
In so many words, while organizations such as Blockbuster and Dell hunkered down in competition, others were using redefinition and reinvention to move well past that.
Moving beyond the idea of competition through reinvention and redefinition doesn’t involve a mere tweak to an existing product or service or some other variation on a theme. Rather, it means complete, utter change. It means a one-way move into the future, with no doubling back.
Looked at another way, with thousands of movies available for streaming, there’s no way you’re going to fight traffic to get to a rental shop and pore through shelves of movies. That makes the idea of competition utterly moot.
Redefine What It Means to Benchmark
Competition inherently invites comparison and, with it, the idea of benchmarking. Another person or organization is offering this product or service or has reached a certain level of sales. With benchmarking, you note those comparatives and look to exceed them.
The problem is, you may be inadvertently limiting your success—maybe what you’re benchmarking against isn’t all that spectacular—and you may also continually fall behind as competitors move on to something else.
My system of anticipatory thinking involving hard and soft trends—future certainties as well as things that may or may not occur—allows you to jump far ahead of what may be considered conventional benchmarks. In effect, it allows you to ask yourself: How can I utterly remake something instead of merely changing or tinkering with it—and, in so doing, move beyond merely competing?
Here’s an example. One definite hard trend is convergence—things of all sorts coming together, from products capable of a greater number of functions to entire industries converging.
That leads to all sorts of anticipatory-focused questions. What products does your organization offer that could benefit from convergence and, in effect, move beyond competition? (Think of smartphones that now take more pictures than any other camera on Earth!)
Further, how will your industry be affected by convergence? What resulting opportunities can you anticipate?
The anticipatory mind-set moves you and your organization past the simple, limiting one-upmanship of competition. By redefining and reinventing, there’s effectively nothing to compete with.
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