One of the best ways to beat your competition is to make them irrelevant but that's often easier said than done. Industries have traditionally been, and still are, insular. When one competitor develops a new feature or function, or drops or raises prices the rest of the industry typically reacts and follows suit. Unfortunately for everyone involved this follow the leader mentality ultimately means that over time there is less and less differentiation between them all and commoditisation swiftly follows, once this has happened growth slows, incomes decline and it inevitably becomes a race to the bottom. It could be argued that imitation is built into the human genome and few could argue that it's easier to copy than it is to create something new but with just a slight alteration in thinking it is easy to reinvigorate even the most short sighted of companies and leave the rest of the pack for dust.
Distancing yourself from your competition can be accomplished in a variety of ways. Innovating your business and pricing models are two ways to differentiate yourself but getting your Research and Development teams to go back to basics and focus on solving the task the consumer is looking to accomplish can be equally as effective. While this last one should be business as usual we have found that many corporate teams are all too happy to copy a competitors new feature ad verbatim and the storage industry, ruled by companies such as EMC, Netapp, HP and IBM is a prime example of this - when one company brings out a deduplication feature the others follow suit but the consumer isn't asking for deduplication, what they're asking for is a technology that will help them reduce the amount of data they store. When you examine it from this angle it opens up a wealth of possible solutions that, while it does include deduplication the answer can also include compression, atomisation and other technologies not invented yet so, as you can see, by simply reframing the consumers need you open yourself up to a plethora of new answers any one of which will help differentiate you again.
At the 311 Institute not only do we help companies get back to basics and differentiate themselves against the competition but we also help them develop new, uncontested mass markets - making the competition irrelevant.