The nature of competition

Competition is a funny beast. We all engage with it at nearly every stage of our lives – as kids in school, as employees in the workplace, as companies in the market place, and so on.

There are lots of theories around what it really takes to be competitive. I think the challenge with competition comes down to one core idea – what helps you compete in the short run is not what’s going to help in the long run.

And, understanding this idea is precisely what innovators and creators get right. They abhor the idea of playing in the rat race. Instead, they focus on creating the next thing and starting with a blank slate. It doesn’t always work. But, when it does, it is pretty magical.

This has a couple of interesting implications in our own lives –
1. It is okay to compete for something in the short term. But, pouring all your energy and resources into a short term competition is counter productive. You might win the proverbial battle but will lose the war.

2. That said, if you can avoid short term competition, do it. The best way to compete in the long run is to actually not engage in any short term competition. And, you soon realize that the only worthwhile competitor in the really long run is yourself.

3. The beauty about competing with yourself is that you soon realize there is nothing to be gained by viewing people around you as competition. In fact, the only lens with which to look at people (or organizations) around you is whether they are potential partners/collaborators or not.

And, that brings us to the final idea – how do you effectively compete with yourself? By starting on a journey of continuous improvement. The only measure of progress that matters is that you’re solving different kinds of problems this year than you were last year. And, the only score that matters is whether you’re better today than you were yesterday.