The Best Way To Win – Don’t Compete!

I had a strange experience this week – I was advising someone on 21stC business and they agreed 🙂 Doesn’t happen often 🙂 Why doesn’t it happen often?  Well precisely as the premise of this whole Tao of BizDev approach is that the world of work has changed forever – and most folks are trying to deny it or ignore it and hence have not woken up and smelt the new coffee.

So what did he agree about?  A man I hasten to add who created eight-figure value in a few years in the past – starting from scratch – so someone with real experience at digging and finding gold.



As that founder of philosophical Taoism as we know it today – Lao Tzu – effectively said – Don’t compete!

This goes so much against the grain of all of our modern business culture that it sounds like suicide. So why did this experienced business man agree?

Our over-competitive business culture derives almost 110% from American neo-liberal capitalism  which is highly and it’s Darwinian at its crudest, individual sense (little room for societal or cultural progress when its “dog eat dog” times “winner takes all”).

Actually the pendulum has swung a long way in my life.  In 1970s UK, business was most certainly at the opposite end – over-collaborative – hence it took months to get a new phone line or a mortgage.  Just a bit of a pity the pendulum shot past perfect balance so fast.

So why is it best not to compete?

First point. Soooo much of business thinking is “me too”.  I rarely come across any social media advice for, example, that is anything other than repeating the “same old same old” – without paying attention to the law of diminishing returns that I wrote about in Content Shock, Rear-View Mirrors and the End of a Gold Rush?.  When everyone is doing X the way to win is to do Y.

Second point.  Sun Tzu and his Art of War – so beloved of business publishers for a time – certainly embodied Taoist wisdom.  For all the western love of the idea of business as war, that led folks to buy it at airport bookshops, its heart was very Oriental, very martial arts. The best way to win a fight is not to fight.  The best warrior wins a fight without fighting.

Third point. Competing encourages competition!  It encourages folks to wake up in the morning and try and stop you succeeding.  You can do without that.

Final point.  If you can step in somehow and stand behind a group of buyers on the left and a group of sellers on the right – in other words an agency role then both sides will love you.  If – and this has never been easier – you find a way to intermediate where there has been no intermediation before then everyone will love you.

Of course if you can do all this you will attract competitors – but by then you will be well out front – well you will be if you can develop fast – but that’s another topic for another day 🙂

So how can “Don’t compete” apply to you or your business?

How can you use this principle – even to a small degree – to get out there and create something fresh?


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