I am highly non competitive.
I am boring.
I don’t play to win.
BUT I am almost always doing something amazingly exciting !!
A couple of days ago, I was browsing through some old files on my computer with a friend, taking her through some of my work when I started out.
I have created a lot of ‘firsts’ in my work life. So the constant question was “How did you manage to do that?”
The answer to that question dawned on me this morning.
Its very simple. I didn’t try to beat anyone at their game. I played mine and I was the only one playing.
Disrupt this. Disrupt that. This seems to be today’s mantra. Of course its a great way to capture markets. But, when you focus on disruption, you are effectively competing with others - some may have deeper pockets and wider market reach.
You may come on top or you may struggle. We hear great disruptive stories but what are the odds?
Is that the only way? Compete? and be better than someone?
Year 2004. I was consulting with a company that manufacture ‘car seats’. Automobile manufacturers - a highly competitive industry. I was hired to work with the sales teams and devise a strategy with them. The team had all the answers to why they won’t get a better price, market share and value. It was all logic too. Reality - that the sector was bloody competitive.
We didn’t focus on how to disrupt the sector, rather I asked a question that seemed so stupid to them- “Why are you in it then?”
I got stared as if am a clown with a red nose that just fell off.
“Isn’t there another place where these seats are used? Can you remove the word ‘car’ and think?”
Within a minute we had another answer - movie theatres.
The little struggling automobile company created a completely new market. 2004 it was a 55m USD company. 2018 it is a 2b USD company.
Innovate on value, not just on technology .
Technology first seems to be some fad today. Everyones gunning for it. What about focusing on how your offering – whether it’s a product or service – makes buyers’ lives dramatically more productive, less risky, easier, less complex, more fun, or meaningful or more environmentally friendly.
A few years ago I was working with the leadership team of one of the largest manufacturers of diesel generators. We were collaborating to identify a new vision for the company. The ideas in the room were full of how to make the generator better and more tech savvy and so on.
I wanted them to think value! So I asked a simple question, “Isn’t the future of your business highly dependant on an ineffective government who wouldn't improve supply of electricity?” and “Can you now think of adding value that isn’t dependent on this?”
To an outsider it seemed like a logical question. To the insiders that seemed like a very necessary assumption which they must not confront.
Needless to say we didn’t work much together post that engagement.
A year ago this company was acquired by someone with a bigger vision !
Are you thinking value innovation or are you needlessly caught in techno-savvy-trap?
Don’t focus on competing - focus on creating.
Companies focus on benchmarking innovation. They mistakenly equate technological advances to value creation. They obsess with competition and then set agendas to match or outperform them. May be we do all this because we find it easy to emulate (and think from there on) rather than to create (un-think from here on).
I was moderating an entrepreneur summit where start-ups were presenting ideas to venture capitalists. A young man presented a ‘traffic management’ idea based on GPS. He was ready with technology, the model. It needed money, lots of money to work. Then a suited investor asked a pointed question, “whose your competition?”
The young man proudly said, “no one”.
“You are ignorant, un-researched and brash. We can’t invest in you.”
Who knows that he could’ve beaten Google to the launch. Google maps was launched in 2005 by the way. No competition still !!
There are far simpler ways to succeed than to keep battling. The problem is that it needs a different mind. A mind that is willing to see the white spaces.
Can the mind that purely exists to the joys and thrills of competing ever see this?