Stop Competing – Start Winning By Innovating

Contrary to popular belief, competing with other individuals or companies is counterproductive. From a business perspective, focusing on your competition instead of focusing on continuous innovation by creating new, must have products, and services, will over time result in you looking and acting more like your competitors, not to mention fighting an escalating battle over shrinking margins. So even when you’re in the lead, eventually someone else will copy what you are doing, which makes you compete with them even more. Unfortunately, the majority of companies are so focused on competing that they’re locked in a losing battle – a vicious cycle of one-upmanship.


A better idea is to seek advantage. That means using Hard Trends (trends that will happen) to redefine and reinvent your company, your products, or your services so you can jump ahead and stay ahead. It’s about moving beyond your competition by nurturing, promoting, and enhancing innovation and original thinking – both individually and within your organization. In other words, you want to become an innovator not an imitator, and go beyond the competers.

What’s the difference between competers and innovators? No, competers is not a misprint. It’s an original term for those who reflexively compete rather than seek to gain a strategic advantage through innovation. Here are some of the distinctions between competers and innovators:

Competers

Innovators

Copy what others are doing

Look for better ways of thinking and acting

Get locked into set patterns

Cultivate a creative mindset, create new patterns

Believe the future will take care of itself if they take care of the present

Focus on their future goals and building a path to get there

See scientific and technological developments as threats to their status quo

Focus on how they can apply new technologies to open up new opportunities

Collect and swim around massive amounts of raw data

Look for ways to translate raw data into actionable knowledge and insights

React to trends

Use Hard Trends (trends that will happen) to predict and even create new trends and profit from them

Have a short-range view of planning and consider it a necessary evil

Take a strategic view of planning and know the value of building change into the plan

Dread change and resist it as long as they can

Seek to remain adaptive and to use change to their advantage

Avoid anything that would cast them as being significantly different from their competitors

Maximize their differential advantage

Try to control and direct their people

Empower their people for positive action

Complain about how unproductive their people are

Realize that people are their most upgradable resource and look for ways to help them be more productive and innovative

Think about how they can use high-technology to cut their work forces and save money

Integrate strategy, technology, and people to create new products and services

Believe in standardized operations that force people to act in predictable ways

Encourage creativity in their people to rapidly solve problems and grow their business

Are annoyed by problems and see them as enemies to progress

Go looking for problems they can turn into opportunities

In short, competers are usually so caught up in meeting their day-to-day challenges and fighting the competition that they fail to see and act on new game-changing opportunities, while innovators see the present only as a stepping-stone they can use to create a bigger and better future.

Which would you rather be?

How to Innovate

If you’re ready to stop being a competer and start being an innovator, here are a few tips that will help.

• Be Future-Oriented

Since you’ll be spending the rest of your life in the future, doesn’t it make sense to think about it and plan it rather than just let it happen? Identify the Hard Trends that will impact your business and industry and then list the opportunities that create the new advantage each represents. Identify the soft trends that might happen and list how you could change them into opportunities to gain new advantage. As you plan your future innovative path, ask yourself these five questions based on the Hard Trends and opportunities you have identified:

1. What path are my competitors on right now?

2. Where are the successful companies most likely to evolve to?

3. What’s the logical progression of the industry?

4. How are my customers changing?

5. What are my customers greatest unmet needs both now and in the near future?

Your answers will enable you to stop competing and start creating by thinking in terms of innovation. They’ll help you open your eyes to the future possibilities so you can stay ahead of the curve rather than simply keep up. Remember: If you want real advantage and innovation, you have to think beyond what you’re doing now and plan your future wisely.

• Do What the Masses Don’t Do

Most businesses copy successful competitors and then wonder why they aren’t further ahead. For example, chances are that in your business you use a word processing program, and if you’re like the majority of people, you use Microsoft Word. Did you know that there are over four thousand features in Microsoft Word? How many of those four thousand features do you use on a regular basis? Probably less than ten. How many did you pay for? All four-thousand! Do you think your competitors are using Word the same way you do? Most likely, yes.

Taking it a step further, when a new version of Word comes out, your competitors purchase it, just like you. They even use the same features in the new Word program as they did in the old version – again, just like you. As you might guess, you could easily substitute Word for all of the different software programs you use.  Few people are going beyond what everyone else does in a way that produces any real advantage or leads to innovation.

The key is to dedicate yourself to finding advantage and using it to innovate. Using the word processing program example, ask yourself, “What are the features in Word that my competitors are not using that can give me an edge?” In other words, don’t just copy what the competition does; rather, look at what they’re doing and then do what they don’t do.

• Change Your Customer

If you truly can’t find ways to innovate, then ask yourself if there’s a better customer you can go after – one that’s better and different than what everyone else is going after. Can you innovate by customizing your product or service for the better customer so that the better customer would want what you offer and not what the competitor offers? This is the process that gives you the advantage, and it all boils down to simply being more innovative on an ongoing basis.

Shaping Your Future

One thing is certain about the future: competition will intensify. So why play that game when you can own the game? Standing out by innovating again and again! Granted, keeping track of what your competitors are doing is a good idea; however, letting what they’re doing dictate your next move is not the best strategy. Instead, focusing on innovation based on the direction Hard Trends are taking all of us in, is the way to go for long-term profits. In fact, when you become an innovator rather than a competer, you’ll be the company that is taking the industry into the future – the company all the others strive to imitate. That’s when you’ll truly be a leader and have the upper hand and the innovative outlook that enables you to turn tomorrow’s opportunities into today’s profits. 

*****

DANIEL BURRUS is considered one of the world’s leading technology forecasters and innovation experts, and is the founder and CEO of Burrus Research, a research and consulting firm that monitors global advancements in technology driven trends to help clients understand how technological, social and business forces are converging to create enormous untapped opportunities. He is the author of six books including The New York Times best seller Flash Foresight.

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Sponsored
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

4 reasons Martin Luther King, Jr. fought for universal basic income

In his final years, Martin Luther King, Jr. become increasingly focused on the problem of poverty in America.

(Photo by J. Wilds/Keystone/Getty Images)
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Despite being widely known for his leadership role in the American civil rights movement, Martin Luther King, Jr. also played a central role in organizing the Poor People's Campaign of 1968.
  • The campaign was one of the first to demand a guaranteed income for all poor families in America.
  • Today, the idea of a universal basic income is increasingly popular, and King's arguments in support of the policy still make a good case some 50 years later.
Keep reading Show less

Why avoiding logical fallacies is an everyday superpower

10 of the most sandbagging, red-herring, and effective logical fallacies.

Photo credit: Miguel Henriques on Unsplash
Personal Growth
  • Many an otherwise-worthwhile argument has been derailed by logical fallacies.
  • Sometimes these fallacies are deliberate tricks, and sometimes just bad reasoning.
  • Avoiding these traps makes disgreeing so much better.
Keep reading Show less

Why I wear my life on my skin

For Damien Echols, tattoos are part of his existential armor.

Videos
  • In prison Damien Echols was known by his number SK931, not his name, and had his hair sheared off. Stripped of his identity, the only thing he had left was his skin.
  • This is why he began tattooing things that are meaningful to him — to carry a "suit of armor" made up the images of the people and objects that have significance to him, from his friends to talismans.
  • Echols believes that all places are imbued with divinity: "If you interact with New York City as if there's an intelligence behind... then it will behave towards you the same way."
Keep reading Show less