Many books and blog posts have been written about the many reasons companies fail, a key reason is because they stop paying attention to customers, and instead focus on competitors. It is a very interesting dynamic to observe how companies may start innovating but then decide to align themselves with their competitors…
The question is: why?
The answer comes down to human nature. Success hides problems, and our tendency to become complacent after having some success puts us in a state of reaction. As a result, competitor activity becomes a huge source of anxiety and frustration for company leaders. For me, a clear signal that a company may be loosing its footing is when it talks a lot about what competitors are doing and how they have to match them; not what they are doing differently.
Sure, other competitors may take advantage of trends in technology and ride a wave that ends up disrupting existing businesses; but very rarely are companies created with a deliberate need to crush existing companies. That happens after the fact!
It is very simple, the future happens to you, not other competitors.
This simple insight was reflected on a recent 60 Minutes segment where in reference to the media and publishing industries it is disrupting, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos tells Charlie Rose that complaining is not a strategy:
Charlie Rose: A lot of small book publishers and other smaller companies worry that the power of Amazon gives them no chance.
Jeff Bezos: You got to earn your keep in this world. When you invent something new, if customers come to the party, it’s disruptive to the old way.
Rose: Yeah, but I mean, there are areas where your power’s so great, and your margin — you’re prepared to make it so thin — that you can drive people out of business. And you have that kind of strength, and people worry: Is Amazon ruthless in their pursuit of market share?
Bezos: The Internet is disrupting every media industry, Charlie. You know, people can complain about that, but complaining is not a strategy. Amazon is not happening to book selling; the future is happening to book selling.
Innovation doesn’t follow, it leads. So, when you start complaining about competitors, remember to reflect on the bigger picture; because that is probably what you are missing.
Ask yourself: what questions are we not asking that may become a reality for us?
You can watch the whole 60 Minutes segment below: