Who Are You Competing Against?

Bob Schultek
Author of
The Gauntlet

In this dynamic market, the most agile, growing businesses compete more against themselves than against any competitor.

Competing companies, offering comparable solutions, struggle to differentiate themselves over time, resulting in declining prices and margins which impede sustainable growth.

Your customers care only about the value you produce for them, and however you accomplished this last time, they will expect more next time. Producing more value than last time, without just reacting to what your competition is doing, requires that you challenge yourself to be better. Your real competitor is you. 

Listen to what your loyal customers are saying; what do they value, what’s inhibiting their growth? Use these insights to challenge your status quo, to perfect what you do, and to fuel creativity and innovation. 

But realize that challenging your status quo may require you to respect precedent without being paralyzed by it. That precedent was developed to promote efficiency and minimize risk, so there will be resistance from those responsible for preserving the precedent. To overcome that resistance, describe why a change creates more value. 

The most common stated barrier to improvement or innovation is the lack of time. Without goals for these initiatives, and someone responsible for achieving them, no time will be allocated to identifying new value creation methods; employees will be expected to get creative while fulfilling their existing responsibilities. Making time for experimental activities can produce new insights and ideas, so consider empowering some personnel to spend 10-20% of their time on improvement or innovation. 

Another typical constraint is leadership support. A passion for new ideas and a tolerance for risk starts at the top. Does senior leadership reward new bets and do they celebrate lessons learned from ideas that fail to launch? No improvement or innovation strategy can succeed without clear messaging and related action that demonstrates leadership support, including budgetary support. 

Finally, it takes a process to manage ideas and test concepts; without it, novel ideas won’t make it to launch. Ensure that a means exists to evaluate, test and validate improvement and innovation ideas, and that the results of initiatives are reported. 

Striving to excel incents innovation, diversity of supply and value creation for your customers, and for your business, stimulating growth for you both.

Who are you competing against?

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