Harvard business strategist, Michael Porter, saw the primary challenge of a business to be escaping competition. Businesses in a market tend to converge in their offerings because improvements easily disseminate among them. They’re all running the same kind of race and whenever something new makes someone a little faster, others quickly copy it.
As an example, I remember when Rob Walling’s email marketing platform, Drip, pioneered visual workflows for email sequences. It was a superior approach that initially gave Drip an advantage. But it was soon copied by all his competitors and he was back in the race.
Porter believed that the only way to escape this dynamic is to run a different kind of race. It can’t just look different, like taking a market position, it has to be different.
If you’re a rabbit in a field of rabbits, it’s choosing to be a turtle instead. You have to sacrifice your speed and lightness for armor. What makes you successful is fundamentally different than what the rabbits are trying to achieve. If they try to copy you by putting a little shell on their fur, it just slows them down and makes them less fit for their purpose.
The ramification for your business is that the only way you can give yourself persistent protection from competitive pressure is to innovate in your business model. Not only must you innovate, but you must be willing to sacrifice what other businesses find essential. And because innovation rarely works initially, you must have resources or an approach that helps you survive all the failures.
It’s a challenge that requires courage, sensitivity, and resilience. But it’s worth considering Porter’s challenge, because limiting competition makes business and growth much easier.