Identify Your Weakness Before a Competitor Does

by Jamie Flinchbaugh

How do you avoid being made irrelevant as a company? By the time a competitor makes you irrelevant, it is likely too late to dramatically change. Just ask Blockbuster, Kodak, Motorola, or Sears.

You stay ahead of that threat by defining yourself as irrelevant first, a concept called creative destruction, which was made popular by Joseph Schumpeter but originated elsewhere.

Think of it like a forest that is allowed to burn so that new growth can take its place. The question becomes whether the new growth will be your own or someone else’s, and whether you set the fire or someone else does.

As part of your strategy, there is one great question that you should always ask: If you were starting as a new competitor in the same industry, how would you put your current company out of business?

You can approach this question as part of a conversation. Or, you can assign it to an individual or group to explore. The important thing is that it is not just a back-of-mind question. You should engage with it actively and purposefully. You may not be ready to engage with the answer that the question reveals, but if you wait for the competition to reveal the answers, it will likely be too late.

Jamie Flinchbaugh is a thought leader on lean principles. He runs JFlinch, a firm that helps teams accelerate by solving the most challenging problems. Learn more at jflinch.com. Flinchbaugh spoke at the 2019 Supply Summit in Myrtle Beach.