Companies can only discover new opportunities by broadening their research and expanding their peripherals.
Facebook was lucky, it knew its enemy (Instagram) because it followed the old saying “keep your enemies close”; they went to the same school, lived down the road from each other.
It’s easier to follow a competitor when you are that close, but that requires discipline from a company that’s growing so fast. Next time, when a competitor emerges from the streets of Sao Paulo, Brazil, Facebook might not be so fortunate.
Failure to spot competitors has been one of the major reasons for the downfall of some of the world’s biggest brands. They get blinded by arrogance and it becomes harder and harder to see the biggest competitive threats that don’t conform to your pre-conceived notions. If you make cameras, you can only see other camera makers as your competitors, not a phone and the same could be said for Nintendo’s recent challenges in the world of gaming, they also failed to see the rise of mobile.
The way around this problem is to have eyes in the back of your head, which means you need to see competitors from all sides, not just straight ahead. The best way to do this is to start by understanding the consumers that might not traditionally be your customers; they aren’t your core, they are the ones on the peripheries. You need to understand how they are behaving and what they want. This takes discipline because there’s always only so much budget to go around, it’s always easiest to focus only on the people that seem to matter to you right now.
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