The Best Thing You Can Have Is Bad Intelligence

03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

During the Cold War, America would fly spy planes over the Soviet
Union to count how many bombers they had. Knowing exactly what the
Americans were doing, the Soviets laid out hundreds of fake, wooden
bombers to trick the Americans into thinking that they had a much
bigger capability than they actually did.  The problem was, America
believed its own intelligence and built real bombers to counter the perceived Soviet threat. 

wasn't until after the fall of the Berlin Wall did we learn that, if we
ever had gone to war with the Soviet Union, we would have annihilated
them because our resources vastly outnumbered theirs.  This massive
unfair advantage would not have happened if it weren't for the good
fortune of some bad intelligence. 

Believing that your
competition is stronger and better than you pushes you to better
yourselves. Whether real or perceived, believing you have a
disadvantage forces you to find new and clever ways to compete. It's
always the organizations that are resource constrained that come up
with the good ideas to win.

You can save money on competitive
analyses by simply pretending that whatever your competition is doing,
they are doing it better than you. This works whether you're the
leader or the challenger.  Instead of constantly trying to compare what
you're doing to others, focus instead on constantly trying to improve
yourself and the way you do things. You should believe, true or not,
that there is always someone lurking on the horizon waiting to take
advantage of you.

The greatest threat any organization can face
is not its competition but its own success. With great success comes
complacency - the false belief that you are the best and that you don't
have to worry. The problem is, you'll only realize it's a false belief
when someone else catches you by surprise. This pattern is repeated
over and over and over. Wal-Mart, Microsoft and General Motors all
believed that they were unbeatable -- until a company who believed they
were not as strong found a better way to compete with the 800lb gorilla.


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