I’m teaching mythology for the first time in ages, and I stumbled upon this lovely quotation from Joseph Campbell. I’ll leave the unpacking to you.
[That’s] one of the main functions of myth. It’s what I call the pedagogical: to carry a person through the inevitable stages of a lifetime. And these are the same today as they were in the paleolithic caves: as a youngster you’re dependent on parents to teach you what life is, and what your relationship to other people has to be, and so forth; then you give up that dependent to become a self-responsible authority; and, finally, comes the stage of yielding: you realize that the world is in other hands. And the myth tells you what the values are in those stages in terms of the possibilities of your particular society. (32)
Source: An Open Life: Joseph Campbell in Conversation with Michael Toms
When considering your organization’s strategies, it is useful to begin at the beginning: what industry are you in?
From there, it becomes possible to define your most direct competitors. That shouldn’t be difficult, and as a result, it might not give you much of a longterm advantage. Perhaps more interesting, and more advantageous, is to seek to identify competitors that your entire industry might not see coming (or might not even see as competitors if they did see them coming). So sure, you’re competing against company or school B and C . . . but it’s also true that you + company / school B + company / school C are all, together, competing against _________. If it wins, then you all lose.
Here’s a nice applied example from Will Page in the August 13 FT Weekend:
Consider the enlightening story of American football team the Atlanta Falcons, who took the bold decision of improving the quality of catering inside their glitzy new stadium while slashing prices. On-the-night spend . . . went up 16 per cent. They identified competition at home — a 72-inch smart television, say — and outside too, in the US culture of tailgating, where sports fans drink beer and barbecue food by the backs of their cars in stadium car parks. The Falcons realised they were competing for attention on and off the pitch.
What’s your industry’s version of the 72-inch smart screen and the culture of tailgating? (One easy answer is that we’re likely all competing against the former in one way or another.)