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Today’s Dumbest Business Article

Sometimes an article is so dumb you just gotta comment. Try this from “It’s Is All About You” on Entrepreneur.com: “The best way to deal with competition is simple: Ignore it. The greatest leaders don’t care what the competition thinks.”

Gosh, I guess all those leaders I’ve admired weren’t great after all. Because most of my role models obsess over the competition.

To be fair, the article by Jennifer Wang is quoting a gentleman, Simon Sinek, whose main point is that leaders should focus on passion and motivation. No argument. Just read some Jim Collins about what separates great from good, or just about any organization development writer to get confirmation.

And, to be fair, if your business goal is just to get by and pay rent, sure, you might be able to ignore competition. Or if you’re working a very fragmented category where no single competitor can do you much harm, and your challenge is just to keep executing your strategy, sure, maybe all you need to do is track market share and you’ve checked the “competitive analysis” box for the month.

But if your goal is to build a great, sustaining business, if your ambition is to achieve explosive growth and maximize the value of your company, if your values dictate that like Jack Welch you must be #1, #2, or writing an exit strategy, then friend, ignore the competition at your own risk.

Strategy has only one purpose: winning. To win, you need to know who you are fighting – intimately. There is a reason that modern leaders from the military, politics, sports, and yes, business, still read Sun Tsu: his unrelenting focus on understanding both yourself and your adversary.

Some examples of how this has been applied recently by great leaders:

  • Google obsesses on how to win by weakening Microsoft and Apple
  • NBA teams obsess about their competitors’ moves and make their own moves to compensate (there’s only one reason the Lakers added Artest: the Celtics’ more physical game in 2008)
  • Virtually every leading consumer brand obsesses over positioning relative to competitors
  • and the list goes on

OK, I’m beating a dead horse here. Let’s be kind. Maybe there are some instances where you can ignore the competition. But “The greatest leaders don’t care what the competition thinks?” Please.

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