By Daniel Burrus, CEO of Burrus Research

Contrary to popular belief, competing with other companies is counterproductive. No matter what your angle for competing – whether you’re competing on price, service, quality, time, design, or anything else – the unfortunate outcome is you’re making yourself too much like everyone else. So even when you’re in the lead, someone else eventually matches you, making you compete even more. Unfortunately, the majority of companies are so focused on competing that they’re locked in a losing battle – a vicious cycle of one-upmanship.

A better idea is to seek advantage. That means redefining and reinventing your company, your products, or your services so you can jump ahead and stay ahead. It’s about moving beyond your competition by nurturing, promoting, and enhancing innovation and original thinking – both individually and within your organization. In other words, you want to become an innovator and go beyond the competers.

What’s the difference between competers and innovators? No, competer is not a misprint. It’s an original term for those who reflexively compete rather than seek to gain a strategic advantage through innovation.

In short, competers are usually so caught up in meeting their day-to-day challenges that they can only worry about the future, while innovators see the present only as a stepping-stone they can use to get to a bigger and better future. Which would you rather be?

If you’re ready to stop being a competer and start being an innovator, here are a few tips that will help.

Be Future-Oriented

Since you’ll be spending the rest of your life in the future, doesn’t it make sense to think about it and plan it rather than just let it happen? As you plan your future innovative path, ask yourself these five questions: What path are my competitors on right now? Based on the recent past and present, where are the successful companies most likely to evolve to?  What’s the logical progression of the industry? How are my customers changing? What are my customers greatest unmet needs both now and in the near future?

Your answers will enable you to stop competing and start thinking in terms of innovation. They’ll help you open your eyes to the future possibilities so you can stay ahead of the curve rather than simply keep up. Remember: If you want real advantage and innovation, you have to go beyond what you’re doing now and plan your future wisely.

Do What the Masses Don’t Do

Most businesses copy successful competitors and then wonder why they aren’t further ahead. For example, chances are that in your business you use a word processing program, and if you’re like the majority of people, you use Microsoft Word. Did you know that there are over four thousand features in Microsoft Word? How many of those four thousand features do you use on a regular basis? Probably less than ten. Do you think your competitors are using Word the same way you do? Most likely, yes.

Taking it a step further, when a new version of Word comes out, your competitors purchase it, just like you. They even use the same features in the new Word program as they did in the old version – again, just like you. The point is that everyone is competing and staying on the same level with others, but few people are going beyond what everyone else does in a way that produces any real advantage or leads to innovation.

The key is to dedicate yourself to finding advantage and using it to innovate. Using the word processing program example, ask yourself, “What are the features in Word that my competitors are not using that can give me an edge?” In other words, don’t just copy what the competition does; rather, look at what they’re doing and then do what they don’t do.

Change Your Customer

If you truly can’t find ways to innovate, then analyze to determine if there’s a better customer you can go after – one that’s better and different than what everyone else is going after. Can you innovate by customizing your product or service for the better customer so that the better customer would want what you offer and not what the competitor offers? This is the process that gives you the advantage, and it all boils down to simply being more innovative on an ongoing basis.

Shaping Your Future

One thing is certain about the future: competition will intensify. So why play that game when you can own the game? Standing out by innovating again and again! Granted, keeping track of what your competitors are doing is a good idea; however, letting what they’re doing dictate your next move is not the best strategy. Instead, focusing on innovation is the way to go for long-term profits. In fact, when you become an innovator rather than a competer, you’ll be the envy of your industry – the company all the others strive to imitate. That’s when you’ll truly be a leader and have the upper hand and the innovative outlook that enables you to turn tomorrow’s opportunities into today’s profits.

About the Author

For over a quarter century, Daniel Burrus has emerged as one of the world’s foremost visionaries and original thinkers regarding technology-driven trends and how technological, social and business forces are converging to create enormous untapped opportunities. The New York Times has referred to him as one of America’s top three business “gurus” in the highest demand as a speaker. For more information on the services and products offered by Daniel Burrus, please visit