March 22, 2016

What Are You PRE-Competing On?

Check out today's blog from marketing guru Seth Godin titled "What are you competing on?" It's a pithy take on where your edge comes from and what you should focus on.

It's also a question I ask companies frequently. It was a section title in my last book, The Big Pivot (actually it said, "what are you really competing on?"), in a chapter about what I call "radical collaboration." The idea is that companies can work together, even with direct competitors, in the environmental and social realms where we face so many systemic challenges.

Two of the main examples in The Big Pivot:

1) Bitter rivals Coca-Cola and PepsiCo coming together to help build a market for refrigerants with lower global warming potential. (More recently, since the book came out, my favorite example is Walmart and Target working together on sustainability in personal care products).

2) Nike's GreenXchange experiment in sharing patents with peers on things like how to make rubber with a smaller footprint.

So in a neat coincidence with Godin's question, today Levi's opted to, like Nike, share its innovations and open source all its best water management ideas and technologies. It's a fantastic example of what many call "pre-competitive" action.

Clearly Levi's execs decided it was smart to help everyone manage water better -- after all, in a water-stressed region, one company reducing water use won't cut it. I'm sure there's more to the story and I'll dig into it and come back to it later...

But it raises my (and Godin's) question again with a tweak: What are you pre-competiting on?

On which issues can you and your competitors draft off each other and share momentum?

What shared, thorny, wicked problems can you work with your competitors and value chain partners to tackle together?

Send me your thoughts... andrew@eco-strategies.com.

[Note: Speaking of Seth Godin...he often encourages people to blog very regularly. Like every day. I've thought about doing more like this short blog, with (hopefully thoughtful) reactions to the world that share some thinking in progress or, as Godin and others say, "showing your work." In the past my record streak of blogging has been exactly 1 day. So while I can't say it's likely I'll manage daily, I am thinking i should say something more regularly...mostly short things. Thoughts from readers?]

(Andrew's book, The Big Pivot, was named a Best Business Book of the Year by Strategy+Business Magazine! Get your copy here. See also Andrew's TED talk on The Big Pivot.

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