My Mercedes is bigger than yours (2)

There is one glory of the sun, another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for one star differs from another in glory – 1Corinthians 15:41


Everything in creation exists to serve a purpose in the mind of the creator. The original purpose in the creator’s mind is the basis of the product’s distinction. It is what makes a table different from a chair.  Although we use the expression “sit at table” when we want to eat at the dining table, the chair is not jealous because it knows that no one would eat sitting on the table! That part of the job is the exclusive preserve of the chair. When you try to make anything function outside of its original purpose, the consequences are usually unpalatable and sometimes costly. Some years ago, I was on a speaking visit to Cameroun. Because I always prefer to iron my clothes personally, I asked my hosts to bring a pressing iron to my hotel room. Guess where I chose to do the ironing? I spread a towel over the surface of an ornamental thick glass centre-table and proceeded to iron, totally oblivious of the Law of Expansion and Contraction which I learnt in secondary school. Did you say stupid? I concur! At the point where the glass could no longer bear the heat, I heard a cracking sound as I watched the beautiful glass top split right through the middle. It cost a lot of money to replace it. Thankfully, my hosts offered to underwrite that cost, a decision I felt very bad about but had to concede to because of their insistence.

Fruits are seasonal. Each one comes out in its season. The period of gestation differs from one specie of plant to another. Maize nourishes man and animal in a way that coconuts cannot. But from the time of planting to fruiting and harvest for maize is about three months. The stem is cut off and another set is planted if you want another harvest of maize. The coconut tree takes several years to get to fruiting stage. But once it starts fruiting, the same tree keeps producing fruit at the same season year after year! The maize would be silly to envy or attempt to compete with the coconut because the latter is a perennial crop. Purpose and its fulfilment are the things that determine the value of anything. Every product on the shelf is nothing other than a solution on offer to a market. As long as it is solving a significant problem for the market in a significant way that attracts significant attention to it, it will have a significant market share. However, when another product comes that promises an enhanced level of value delivery, the market promptly responds, not to the product, but to the value and the way it is communicated and connected!

It is no less with humans. We may look alike, yet each person is distinct with his own set of capabilities, attitude to life as well as behavioral nuances. The chemistry of the operations of our body parts and the attendant inviolate synergy should be an instructive illustration to us of the way we were created to function. Each part of our body is uniquely endowed with a certain function that the other parts require but cannot perform. There is an unbroken symbiosis that works with clockwork precision and regularity that it is normal to take it for granted because it does not require our permission to run as designed!

I have no better words to describe the synergy than those of Paul the apostle in 1Corinthians 12:14-26 of the Bible:

“For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.”

Competition is what kicks in when there is a deviation from the original purpose for which a thing or person was designed. Contrary to popular opinion, competition has never fueled progress, innovation does. Innovation thrives on looking beyond the familiar thinking borders where existing ideas or products compete for envy-propelled supremacy. It always focuses on what can be done differently. It seeks its Blue Ocean until the rest of the world swims to meet it there. Then it pushes the frontiers again and humanity is always the better for it.

Several years ago, I was invited to speak at a Training programme for top-flight sales personnel. The topic was, “Outthinking the Competition”. I opened my presentation with the statement, “If you came here today to hear the next battle strategy against competition, you will be disappointed. The only effective way I know to outthink competition is not to think competition.” After a few moments of what appeared to be an initial jolt, they gave me rapt attention and we had an extremely rewarding time. If you want to make a mark, stop thinking competition. Start thinking distinction. The market does not recognize competition. It only recognizes alternatives. Everyone you call a competitor is simply another alternative which enlarges the customer’s options. Never spend the day focusing on what the other alternatives are doing. Your focus should be on answering the question, “Why should the customer choose us?” This is the pathway to innovations in brand engineering and customer service (read ‘solutions’) delivery.

The more you focus on competition, the less focused you are on what you are in the market to achieve. Stop punching the underbelly of an individual or corporate behemoth. Instead, strategize on what you can deliver to make you grow big. No one who is absorbed in pulling another down develops the muscles to go up. You cannot pull anyone down below the level to which you too have descended.

Remember, the sky is not your limit, God is!

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