Following the Leader Belongs on the Playground, not in the Boardroom

It is tempting to copy the policies and strategies of the leading companies in your industry. After all, they are at the top and seemingly set the standard for everyone else. Conventional wisdom says that failure to follow their lead is the path to corporate suicide.

Really? Let’s take a step back in history. Did Jobs and Wozniak follow IBM when they founded Apple? Which company created the model for Zappos to duplicate? If Apple and Zappos had followed existing examples, we wouldn’t have those two cool companies today. We would have cloned versions of the industry leaders or a couple of more bankruptcies to discuss.

Instead of simply mimicking the companies at the top, study them to find out why they are the leaders. (Notice that I didn’t say the best. Being a market leader doesn’t mean that you are the best. It only means that you are in the front.) Once you discover their strengths and weaknesses use the information to create your unique model. Duplicate the strengths and capitalize on the weaknesses. Throw in a little foresight and you will be on your way to capturing market share.

While you are in learning mode, study the losers in your industry. Why did they fail? More than likely, they were duplicating their competition. What void did they leave? Is there an opportunity for you? Then move along to other industries. If you approach the process with an open mind and innovative thought, you will find a wealth of ideas to grow your business.

Learning from the successes and failures of other companies is sound business practice. Innovation comes from education and thought. It leads you down a different path from following the leader and is the only way to the top.

But, you already knew that, didn’t you?

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