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Competitors or partners?

One of the biggest myths is the one that says “we are fighting our competitors for market share”. Granted, there are situations where somebody wins and somebody else loses. That’s called a “zero sum game”. But I’m certain that, in most situations, that is just not true, and if we cannot see that, wel… we are lacking creativity!

We are all good doing some things, and terrible doing other things. That’s how life works. Most of us spend our time trying to improve those skills we are not so good at, and that comes with a price: we don’t become excelent at those skill we were competent to begin with. I’ll never forget some advice I got from a teacher before my final exams: “don’t waste time studying what you don’t know, because you will not learn it overnight… use your time to make sure you will ace the tests on the areas you are good, already“.

Being aware of your own limits is the first step to acknowledge your qualities. Those are almost synonims. And when we acknowledge our qualities, we can also acknowledge other people’s qualities, including those of our competitors. If we see objectively and clearly our competencies and those of other people, we are also able to perceive how cooperation can happen.

Most things in the world are human inventions. Someone, someday, looked at some stones, mixed it with some basic engineering knowledge and built an aqueduct. Millions of lives changed on that instant. Another day, someone who knew some physics, maths and computers became aware that a company overseas was able to assemble high-density circuits and designed a new processor that would be used on smartphones worldwide. All this was possible because someone (ou a group of people) put together some random knowledge and created something new.

Don’t be naive: our competitor are very competent. Otherwise, they would not be our competitors. They know how to make stuff we don’t, and vice-versa. Now, for a brief moment, forget that you we are fighting this competitor for that great account. Imagine that you have no conflict of interest with him. Be objective: what can he do that you cannot? What does he know that you don’t? What could you do together that couldn’t be accomplished individually? What technology does he possess that, put together with another knowledge that you have, would create a new product, something brand new?

It’s hard to picture something that doesn’t exist yet. But that is what makes us human. Our creativity is limited by ourselves and our hability to gather and process information. When we look at our competitors as enemies, we tend to overlook their qualities, and that leads to a “zero sum game”, instead of a situation where everybody wins. The biggest sale I’ve ever seen with my eyes was made exactly with this technique. Instead of fighting a competitor for an account, we sat together and created a new product, that was a whole lot better than what both of us were offering. That moment, deadly competitor became life-long partners. This year, we celebrate 10 years of a great partnership.