These days, you can find a slurry of memes and motivational graphics on social media alluding to the concept that you must always beat out your competition in business.

But contrary to popular belief, competing with other businesses is actually quite counterproductive, especially in the post-pandemic “new normal” we face – something we never expected to be facing as we entered this new decade.

No matter what your angle for competing – whether it be affordability or uniqueness of goods or services, quality, time of completion, or anything else – the truth of the matter is that when you benchmark against a competitor, you will only ever be as good as the competition.

So even when you’re in the lead, whatever “the lead” means to you, someone else eventually catches up. In turn, this makes you compete 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.

Seek advantage instead of competition

Contrary to competing, a better strategy is to seek advantage. In order to do so, this means redefining and reinventing your company, your products, or your services so you can jump ahead and more importantly, 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 and go beyond what is referred to as the “competers.”

First, the word “competer” is not a misspelling. It is actually an original term for those who reflexively compete as opposed to strategizing to obtain a permanent strategic advantage through innovation. Given that, you may be wondering what the exact difference is between competers and innovators.

Competers are agile reactors caught up in meeting their day-to-day challenges, limited to worrying about the future, while innovators view the present as a stepping-stone they can use to get to a bigger and better future. In terms of COVID-19 and the global shutdown, innovators saw opportunity while competers saw the need to protect and defend the status quo and desperately stay ahead of their competition. Which one do you think will do better in the post-pandemic new normal?

If you’re ready to transition from being a competer to an innovator, here are a few tips that will help!

Focus on becoming future-oriented

We spend the rest of our lives in the future, so doesn’t it make sense to plan it rather than just let it unfold?

As you plan your future innovative path, ask yourself this important question: What can you be certain about? Based on my Anticipatory Organization Model, future certainties are what I refer to as Hard Trends, or future facts that cannot be changed but leveraged for opportunity.

Understanding and leveraging Hard Trends allows you to stop competing and start thinking in terms of innovation, opening your eyes to future possibilities so you can stay ahead of the curve and move beyond competition, becoming the one that others benchmark themselves against instead.

Take the road less traveled

Another troublesome frequency I see these days is the tendency for businesses to copy successful competitors based on either their bottom line or their brand.

Soon after, they wonder why they haven’t found similar success or aren’t farther ahead. The answer is simple: It has already been done!

Take, for example, the word processing program Microsoft Word. Chances are great that you use Microsoft Word, as does your competitor. But I’ll bet you didn’t know that there are over four thousand unique features in Microsoft Word, of which you and your competitor likely limit to ten. Even when a new version comes out, you both likely purchase it and continue to use the same features without going beyond that scope.

The point is that everyone that competes generally stays on the same level with each other, while few think exponentially and go beyond competition in a way that leads to advantage and innovation.

Dedicate yourself to finding advantage by thinking exponentially, and use it to innovate. Ask yourself, “What is something my competitors overlook that can give me an edge?” Don’t copy what the competition does; do what they aren’t.

Change your target customer

If you truly can’t find ways to innovate, determine if there is a more suitable customer base to go after that is overlooked in your industry. Innovate by customizing your product or service for this untapped resource so seek out what you offer and not what the competitor offers, giving you the advantage.

One thing we can be certain about the future is that competition will intensify. Why play the game when you can own the game?

It is not a bad idea to keep track of what your competitors are doing; however, there is a big difference between keeping a watchful eye and letting what they’re doing dictate your next move.

Instead, focus on innovation, as when you become an innovator rather than a “competer,” you become the company all the others strive to imitate, making you an Anticipatory Leader that allows you to turn disruption and change into opportunity and advantage.

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