Stop Itemizing Everything: Move Beyond Competition

Stop Itemizing Everything: Move Beyond Competition

Daniel Burrus 12/02/2020 2

Human beings are competitive in all circumstances, and it has only intensified in today’s predominantly technologically advanced world.

No matter the industry or particular field, competition is fierce, and regardless of what you and your organization do in terms of products or services, there’s inevitably someone else offering a competitive alternative. In that case, your goal becomes to “beat” or outdo those competitors, whether that means greater sales, more customers, or some other benchmark relevant to your industry.

But what if you could move beyond the idea of competition and no longer needed to see the competition as “competition,” necessarily? Would this be a bona fide game changer for you and your business, allowing you to move your organization past an “us versus them” struggle and into innovation without a constant knee-jerk comparison to paranoid levels as to what others in your industry are doing that you might not be? 

This can happen, but it involves unplugging a well-established mind-set and developing an anticipatory outlook that both redefines and reinvents what you do.

Competition Is Dangerously Synonymous with Disaster

There are dozens of real-world examples of organizations that tried to compete, only to encounter enormous problems and often disaster because of it. A whole industry tried to compete by way of lawsuits when the Internet dawned the ability of downloading music, which translated to individuals feeling as though their favorite artists were suing them for being diehard fans wanting nothing more than easier access to their favorite music.

Meanwhile, Apple debuted iTunes, which was redefining the idea of buying music through the convenience of purchasing single MP3s as opposed to whole albums, combating illegal downloads. Years later, Spotify capitalized on this turbulent industry by way of streaming music for a subscription fee.

In so many words, while industries as big as the music and entertainment industry 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, but it means complete, utter change; a one-way move into the future, with no doubling back or second-guessing the plan.

Looked at another way, with the music industry debuting hundreds of top singles every year via the Internet and streaming services, which simultaneously gives individuals the opportunity to listen to said singles as many times as they’d like. Another arm of the music industry still surprisingly alive and trying desperately to win through competition is the world of mainstream radio. Even their initial draw of having talk shows is being replaced by podcasts found on Spotify as well. There’s no way you’re going to sit and wait for hours by a radio to hear your favorite song again.

Change the Definition of Benchmarking

Competition inherently invites comparison and the idea of benchmarking or itemizing everything you do in comparison to the competition. Another person or organization is offering this product or service or has reached a certain level of sales, causing you to note those comparatives and focus only on exceeding them.

The problem is you may be inadvertently limiting your success by way of benchmarking against a lackluster product or service, causing you to continually fall behind as competitors move on to something much greater.

My system of anticipation allows you to jump far ahead of what may be considered conventional benchmarks by way of paying attention to the Hard Trends shaping your industry from both inside and out. In effect, it allows you to ask yourself: “How can I completely remake something instead of merely changing 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? One could speculate that Spotify may replace Sirius satellite radio in automobiles one day, where you don’t even need your smartphone to play music from your Spotify account in your car!

Further, how will your industry be affected by convergence, and what resulting opportunities can you anticipate? With my example in the previous paragraph, how would Spotify benefit from that type of convergence with automobiles, and how would that leave some sort of gap in their business on smartphones and mobile devices? The anticipatory mind-set moves you and your organization past the simple, limiting one-upmanship of competition by redefining and reinventing.

What opportunities are ready for reinvention in your organization? Get guidance for moving beyond simply competing with the principles in the Anticipatory Leader System.


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  • Viraj Malkan

    Couldn't agree more

  • Megan Anderson

    Excellent points, well done.

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Daniel Burrus

Innovation Expert

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.

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