in Business Design

How a competitive stance blocks innovation

W. Chan Kim and RenĂ©e Mauborgne in Think for yourself – stop copying a rival make a great case for reducing the focus on competition and refocusing on innovation:

Assisted by new means to analyse competitors and influence their behaviour, companies [in the 1980’s] placed competition at the centre of strategic thinking, where it has remained ever since. But should organisations be motivated in this way? Our research suggests not. Focusing on building competitive advantages detracts from reshaping old industries, driving young industries to new frontiers and building entirely new industries. It blocks creativity.

I experienced this first-hand years ago while working on a project alongside one of the big management consulting firms. They had morphed the best practices mantra into a design method, aggregating disparate features of the competitors products into our product, and viola — this would somehow result in a cohesive whole that would trump the competition.

Seth Godin says, “The reason it’s so hard to follow the leader is this: The leader is the leader precisely because he did something remarkable. And that remarkable thing is now taken — so it’s no longer remarkable when you decide to do it.