Keeping up—with technology, with competitors, with anything in business or life—is a fool’s game. Think about it… When you’re keeping up, what’s the advantage? In reality, there is no advantage to keeping up, because all you’re doing is making yourself just like everyone else. You’re finding out who the best is and then you’re copying the best. But by the time you get as good as the best, the best has already moved on to something better, and you’re still far behind.
Realize that “benchmarking” is just a fancy way of saying “keeping up.” When you benchmark you’re simply identifying the best practices of what others do well and then striving to imitate them. Again, once you reach the benchmarked standards, the company or person that set the benchmark has already moved on to achieve higher standards.
So how do you gain advantage and truly stand out from the crowd? The key is to forget about keeping up and set a new standard for yourself and your company. Consider the following suggestions.
LOOK TO THE FUTURE
Rather than keeping up, smart business people benchmark in a way that looks to the future. When they plan their future growth, they ask themselves three key questions: 1) Where are the successful companies evolving to? 2) What path are my competitors on right now? 3) What’s the logical progression of the industry?
Asking these questions enables you to go beyond your competition and get off the treadmill of keeping up. It opens your eyes to future possibilities—to stay ahead of the pack instead of side-by-side with them. Remember: Only when you go beyond your competition will you find advantage—and the financial rewards competitive advantage brings.
DO WHAT THE MASSES DON’T DO
Most businesses do exactly the same thing as their competitors and then wonder why they don’t have the upper hand. For example, determine if there’s a better customer you can go after—one that’s better and different than what everyone else is going after. Can you customize your product or service for the better customer so that the better customer would want what you offer and not what the competitor offers? A process of constant innovation and differentiation provides you with new levels of advantage on an on-going basis.
Perhaps there was a time when it made sense to play the one-upmanship game of keeping up with the competition. But the dramatic changes spawned by science and technology has made that a perilous game for the present and a formula for disaster for the future. Those who merely “keep up” are usually so caught up in meeting their day-to-day challenges that they can only worry about the future, while the real business innovators see the present as a stepping stone they can use to get to a bigger and better future.
A new world is taking shape before our eyes, and no company can afford to hide out in the old familiar places. While it’s important to stay abreast of changes and update your company as new technologies and developments unfold, it’s just as crucial to distance yourself from the competition and embrace a forward thinking mindset that will enable you to turn tomorrow’s opportunities into today’s profits.