Bring It On: The Crucial Need for Competition

In business, as in sport, we should relish competition – even when we come second best. 

It’s been fascinating to watch the intense rivalries on display during the Olympics and Paralympics: Tyson Gay and Usain Bolt in the 100m, Team GB’s Victoria Pendleton and Anna Meares in women’s track cycling, Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte in swimming – and most recently, sprinters Oscar Pistorius and Alan Oliveira, who went head to head in the men’s 200m Paralympics final.

Such rivalries have always been interesting for me. Over the past couple of years, I’ve followed the Brownlee brothers, Alistair and Jonathan, and their rise to the top of the triathlon world. It’s clear that fierce competition has inspired both men to train harder and smarter in an attempt to get the better of the other. Rather than shying away from competing against each other, they have confronted the challenge head on, and this surely played a part in their medal-winning efforts at the Olympics.

In the world of business, we can learn a lot from these rivalries. Competition forces us to innovate and develop more efficient techniques. It follows that the most successful businesses are those that are never satisfied.

The constant search for competitive advantage is why we are seeing more businesses than ever before using flexible working to increase productivity and responsiveness. If you can hold a face-to-face meeting with a potential client or business partner virtually, this gives you a clear advantage over a competitor who may have to wait several days or even weeks to arrange a similar meeting in person.

However, implementing new business processes is never an easy feat. So how do you find the motivation? Imagine the sting of defeat.

The feeling of defeat is something we all have shared at some point. Even Bolt has come second before. Pistorius experienced this most recently when he lost to Oliveira. His outraged reaction seemed out of character, and he later apologised for the timing of his remarks.

True competitors use defeat productively, turning it into a force that drives them to return even stronger than before. Yes, it hurts being beaten. But it’s what we do with defeat that defines our success.

I have no doubt Pistorius will train even harder, more determined now to win when he next races Oliveira.

How will you and your business rise to the challenge?


Photo credit: Telegraph UK / Getty Images