In this episode of Beneficial Intelligence, I discuss competition. Billionaires Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson are competing who gets to space first, with both likely to blast off within the next two weeks.
Competition is one of the great forces propelling the world forward. Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic spacecraft is based on SpaceShipOne that won the Ansari X Prize back in 2004. That prize was for a private spacecraft that could go to the edge of space twice in two weeks. It seemed impossible, but aerospace genius Burt Rutan with funding from Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen claimed the prize.
In the early part of the 20th century, the Schneider Prize similarly spurred innovation in aviation. The 1931 winner became the basis of the Spitfire fighter aircraft that won the Battle of Britain in 1940.
Self-driving cars come from the DARPA Grand Challenge. In 2004, no car could autonomously drive more than 7 miles. The next year, competition between especially Stanford University and Carnegie Mellon University resulted in their two cars completing the 150 miles route within 9 minutes of each other.
If you have clear competitors in your space, identify them. Have someone examine your competitors' products, and share that knowledge with the entire team. Making sure that everyone knows what the bar is can release energy and creativity that will allow you to leapfrog the competition.
If you don't have a good external competitor to benchmark yourself against, commission two competing products inside your organization. That costs more money, but it releases energy and gives you speed and creativity. Once a winner has been declared, incorporate the best ideas from the losing project in the winning one.
Competition has been a great force for progress all through human history. Use it in your organization for increased creativity, energy, and speed.
Beneficial Intelligence is a weekly podcast with stories and pragmatic advice for CIOs, CTOs, and other IT leaders. To get in touch, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org