Create! Don’t Compete

Create Don't Compete

I’ve had many meetings with principals in large organizations and companies who say, “I am worried my business will be completely replaced by some Silicon Valley startup. How can I build something to counter that?”

Here are four reasons why this is the wrong question to ask:

  1. You are operating by a reactive mindset that plays not to lose;
  2. Countering what someone else does means that you focus more on competitors than on your customer or new customers;
  3. You’ve waited to be disrupted by someone else instead of being internally driven;
  4. You have not developed your business acumen to consider the unthinkables.

This should not surprise you if you work for a large organization. Large organizations play a defensive strategy that aims to maintain the status-quo, what drives their revenue, for as long as possible. Anything that interferes with that, a startup, is seen as a threat.

Other than a few high-end organizations who adopt and experiment with new ideas that can result in new growth engines, most large organizations are late adopters or laggards. These organizations will never lead, they’ll always be looking at someone else’s license plate for directions, always following.

Traditionally, the concept of competition is bound by function; specifically business models. Within an industry, everyone operates by the same business model and follow the same practices to deliver on their value proposition. These value propositions become stagnant overtime, stagnating both the organizations that offer them and the customers they serve.

Customers in the industry develop set expectations about what to expect, until someone comes in and overdelivers or resets those expectations. This is the “business 101” view of competition, and most everyone follows it to a T.

This is your opportunity, but you have to expand your view of competition if you want to be the disrupter: you compete against anybody who raises people’s expectations about what’s possible; not the ones who keep them as is.

This means looking outside your industry for inspiration, and not believing that your industry can’t be transformed. You have to reframe yourself from being another option provider to a better option creator and provider.

Be a better option creator and provider

See yourself as an option creator and provider. When you don’t, you’re simply another option. The problem with being reactive and late to the game is your assumptions are set with the ones you follow; those assumptions could be wrong.

The reasons most organizations are not option creators is because they’re afraid of making mistakes when shakings up; but innovation is built on mistake-making. The road to innovation doesn’t happen in a straight line, surprises abound and mistakes will be made; there’s no way around it.

What you have in your favor is that there are many organizations, including your own, who fail to gauge whether they understand their customers expectations. Ask yourself: Are we raising or maintaining our customers expectations about what’s possible?

Again, most organizations don’t ask themselves this questions because of fear of being wrong. But, you have to remember that the market for surprise is infinite; there are some customers who like being surprised.

Compete against yourself, not others

Adopting leadership mindset means you compete against yourself, not against others. You choose to create and deliver better options and not just doing what everyone else does. When you compete against yourself you set your own pace, your own expectations.

Anyway, to create the future and avoid irrelevance, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What’s different now?
  • What could the world look like in 5 years?
  • What will change?
  • What won’t change?
  • What does this mean for us and our customers?
  • What world do we want to create?
  • What role do we want to play in that world?
  • What capabilities do we need to develop?
  • How do we leverage out strengths?
  • How do we see ourselves?
  • What value can we uniquely bring?

Key Takeaways

Also published on Medium.