By Chuck Violand

September 28, 2015

Competing is so ingrained in our culture that some of us compete even when we don’t realize we’re doing so. No longer in just sports or business, competing is spilling over into our everyday lives.

We compete when driving in our cars, racing to beat the yellow light so we don’t have to sit during the red. We become impatient and speed to get ahead of the annoyingly slow-moving driver in front of us, only to end up having to wait at the next red light we couldn’t quite beat.

We compete at the grocery store to guess which checkout line will move the fastest. If the line next to ours loses just one shopper, we quietly move into it—hoping no one will notice.

When we over compete, in business or in our personal lives, we run the risk of becoming fixated on our own needs and ignoring those of the people around us. We compromise the trust of others, and they start questioning the motives behind our words and actions, wondering if our only real agenda is to win.

If we’re serious about succeeding in today’s interconnected world, we’d give ourselves a huge head start if we rethought competing and winning.

Rather than viewing the competitor down the street as our enemy, and launching an all-out battle for customers, revenue, or brand awareness, how different would things be if we viewed them as a partner who might actually help our company grow? Naturally, we wouldn’t want to share our customer list or financial statements with them, but what would be lost if we shared equipment during business surges? What could be gained?

Do we really think our company is the only one that experiences business-related challenges with companies of similar size in similar industries? How much healthier could our companies be, how much more growth could we experience if we sought input from other business owners who’ve “been there, done that?”

The chances of being able to offer our customers every service they request all by ourselves is pretty remote. How much could we increase our own capacity by working with a trusted ‘competitor’ who provides a service our company doesn’t? How much more could be gained by returning the favor?

On a grander scale, we might want to ask ourselves what would happen if all our competitors suddenly, and without notice, went away. Would we have the capacity to handle all the customers in our market? Would we want them? Not only are there customers who just are not healthy for our company, but we could be faced with growth and operational challenges we don’t want or aren’t equipped to handle.

Reframing our need to compete doesn’t mean we have to become soft or that we shouldn’t want to win. It simply means that we’ve learned there is more than one way to do so, and the old win-at-any-cost model is rarely the best strategy. Rather than creating opportunities for us, over competing can easily paint us into a corner with few options—and even fewer friends to help us out when needed.