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Competitive Strategies – the dog fight!

Sometimes selecting the right strategy is not straightforward. You have to think laterally.

People talk about competitive strategy – and how important it is for the business to have an effective competitive strategy. In fact, this is a redundant use of words. If a strategy is not effective, then it is not competitive, and vice versa (i.e. if it is competitive, then it will be effective). So why not just say that businesses need effective strategies.

The following story comes to mind in the context of designing an effective strategy that will beat the competition. (It is also timely, considering the recent London atrocity – still in the news of course). There are five lessons from the story:

  1. You need to know what you are up against (so do a full SWOT analysis)
  2. You need to ensure that you have all the facts
  3. You need to be wary of assumptions – just because you think you know what something is, does not always mean that that is what it is!
  4. Never underestimate your opponent – they could have a more effective strategy than you have
  5. Sometimes, to win requires lateral thought. The obvious or standard approach will not win out.

It is now the year 2010. Around 2007, the US and the Al-Quaida network realised that if they continued their fight they would someday end up destroying the world. So they sat down and decided to settle the whole dispute with a dogfight. The negotiators agreed that each would take five years to develop the best fighting dog they could. The dog that won the fight would earn its owner the right to rule the world. The losing side would have to lay down its arms.

Al Quaida found the biggest, meanest Dobermans and Rottweilers in the world. They bred them together and then crossed their offspring with the meanest Siberian wolves. They selected only the biggest, strongest puppy from each litter, killed all the other puppies and fed the lone dog all of the milk. They used steroids and trainers in their quest for the perfect killing machine, until, after the five years were up, they had a dog that needed iron prison bars on his cage. Only the trainers could handle this beast.

When the day of the big fight arrived, the US showed up with a strange animal: It was a nine-foot-long Dachshund. Everyone felt sorry for the US. No one else thought this weird animal stood a chance against the growling beast in the Al Quaida camp. The bookmakers predicted Al Quaida would win in less than a minute. The cages were opened. The Dachshund waddled toward the center of the ring. The Al Quaida dog leapt from his cage and charged the giant wiener-dog. As he got to within an inch of the US dog, the Dachshund opened its jaws and swallowed the Al Quaida beast in one bite. There was nothing left but a small bit of fur from the killer dog’s tail. Al Quaida approached the US, shaking their heads in disbelief. “We do not understand. Our top scientists and breeders worked for five years with the meanest, biggest Dobermans and Rottweilers. They developed a killing machine.” “Really?” the US replied. “We had our top plastic surgeons working for five years to make a Florida alligator look like a Dachshund!”

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