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Wed, 1 May 2024

Reframe the narrative around competition.

Rewind to the time when you just began your professional journey. Or a time more recently when you were stuck on a project. Or starting something new.

After all the team planning / independent planning / stakeholder meetings were done, what did you do to ensure your plan was foolproof? Did you connect with industry experts and get their opinion? Read, researched, connected with incumbent champions? Did you lean into the knowledge of those that were there before you?

Yes? We all did. And we all continue to do. It is thanks to the experts in similar or the same fields that you and I are a bit wiser, a lot more brave and way more whole.

And yet, there comes a time when ‘the same experts’ fill us with fear. We stumble upon moments when our share of ‘the pie’ seems to be shrinking. And this blog is about sharing the two truths that we miss acknowledging when we find ourselves in this space. It is when the ‘fear of competition' hijacks your creativity, dulls your decision-making capabilities and tosses you around emotionally.

The Two Truths About Competition

‘The truths’ that I have to share here are fairly common-sensical in nature, however, when penned down, almost always, add a practical system to conceptual knowledge.

The first truth:

Every time you ‘feel this fear’, congratulate yourself. And this is why. You have moved and shifted from being a novice to an active player and congratulations are therefore due. When you are ‘competing’ with industry stalwarts, remember this – You’ve jumped into that circle of greatness – it’s yours as much as anyone else’s. Celebrate your shift.

The key here is to keep the cycle of generosity churning – that’s what fuels this circle of greatness.

The second truth:

Keep celebrating peers from your Industry – the experts serving similar audiences - don’t make them the enemy. Growth from here on is not going to be about ‘how much more you know' than the player beside you. Huge success here on gets meaningful for the love of the game.

Competition is a bastardised concept. Its definition has been kind of mixed up with the influx of myopic marketing gurus, mindless capitalism, and toxic politics. Narrow definitions of competition limit the contemplation of a wider more human-centric concept of ‘competition’. Competition really comes down to the contributions you want to make ‘competing’ with status quo.

Is this an idealistic fantasy of a utopian world?

Not really. Google is a trillion-dollar rich example of what happens when your biggest strategy to compete is to think beyond the spaces they are currently adding value to - Their essence is facilitation – They aren’t saints – it’s just that they know markets open wider when they are looking at expansion from a lens of facilitation and collaboration. Google Maps, Google drives, Google cloud the list goes on. They know, 'Solving big problems is easier than solving little problems’ – Sergy Brin.

The history of competition has birthed great movements – Movements such as ‘efficiency’, which enabled the facilitation of production of goods and services with the least amount of wasted time, materials, and labor. Movements of ‘scale’, which drove consolidation and globalization of products. Or even the quality movements, with documented examples of 'Made in the USA' giving way to 'Made in Japan' all being instances of competition facilitating life-changing outcomes.

And then, of course, closer to home, concepts such as agility and disruption, surging reach and value even more. And even closer, is the ecosystem way of competing. Your advantage comes not so much from the number of customers you have as from the number of partners you are working with or on top of your products and services. Competition is healthy, that's indisputable. It is also provocative.

'Competition has been shown to be useful up to a certain point and no further, but cooperation, which is the thing we must strive for today, begins where competition leaves off.' – Roosevelt.

Do your questions move in tight concentric circles that check in on your immediate customers, players, profits, markets? Or, Is your vision in the more expansive interest of your neighbor? Is it in the better interest of your great-grandchildren? Is it in the greater interest of people and environments beyond your immediate circle of interactions?

It’s funny – type in ‘opposite of competition’ and this is what pops up – harmony, peace, friend, team-mate.

All this blog hopes to do, is put out a perspective. One that helps you dislodge yourself from feeling stuck or threatened. You are the expert, living out your infinite possibilities. You can combat a scarcity mindset by reminding yourself that definitions, narratives and constructs are inherited beliefs – we can reconstruct them any time we choose.

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