Going hand-in-hand with my most recent post about how everyone copies one another (How to Survive: Read the Market or Just Simply Read What’s On Your R&D Presentation), I received this in my email as part of my newsletter subscription to Strategy+Business — the article is titled “The Value of Being Second” by Oded Shenkar (see article here).

In the article, I nod my head in agreement with every word.  Shenkar cites a chapter from Eli Broad’s The Art of Being Unreasonable: Lessons in Unconventional Thinking.  I like to think I’m a thinker (else, why would I have a blog?), and I’m also a perceiver of the world.  That is, I like to sit back — no wait, I lay in bed unable to sleep at night — and reflect on the world around me.  And so I sit there and I think about how so many of the former companies of great stature, great products have just disappeared out of existence while new companies just take the world by storm.  Again, going back to my previous article where I talk about the Xerox’s and Best Buy’s of the world, it’s no longer needed or even desired to be the first kid on the block with a new product, service, or whatever else.  

As an aspiring entrepreneur, too, being a Co-Founder of Body Boss Fitness, I get to network with other entrepreneurs and hear lectures and presentations from successful entrepreneurs like Charlie Goetz (a Professor at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School), David Cummings (Founder and CEO of Pardot who just got acquired by ExactTarget for $95.5M after only a few years in existence!), etc.  They all say the same message that Shenkar speaks of in his article and what Broad wrote in his book — the market is changing and no longer is innovation and first-movers necessary to be successful.  Instead, it’s the guys who follow the first-movers who capitalize on the first-movers’ failures and mistakes, and they get to leverage the companies coming in second don’t have to educate the market.  Of course, second-movers come in with a new twist as the many entrepreneurs I’ve spoken to would say, including myself.  I especially like the analogy Shenkar cites from Broad: it’s like hiking.  The guy in the front has to clear the brush and is getting cut up and does all the hardwork.  However, he paves the way for the guy following who just simply walks the same path with less investment.

Of course, there are many benefits, too, of being the innovator and first to the market including brand name and access to the technology and more.  And then there’s me, whom I very much hope to be a builder of the future, and wouldn’t mind being the guy at the front of the line hiking.  I want my name out there because if done right, too, the first-mover can keep its place as number 1 in the market place.  The key here is the need to also continually innovate.  (I’m finally getting around to tying this post to my previous post.)  If you can continually innovate, you’ll keep ahead of the curve and you’ll reap the rewards and leave second, third-, n-movers behind you.  Don’t be stagnant.  Or be stagnant and be content to play second fiddle in the future (or no play at all).

And so in closing, I want you all to appreciate coming in second because when done right, coming in second just positions you for first place next year.  But if you’re willing to invest and keep innovation high and strong, keeping the pole position is certainly achievable.  When I hike, yes, I like to lead.  I may be the cut up by the brush and I have to be the one to clear it, but I like that. I like the challenge.  I’m okay with paving the way for others to follow because in the end, it’s for the good of the group.  Do know, though, that while I’m in front, I’m running.  So I’m keeping my place at the front.  You’ll just have to work that much harder to keep up.


[1] Shenkar, Oded. The Value of Being Second.  In Strategy-Business. [Website]. Retrieved November 1, 2012, from  http://www.strategy-business.com/article/ac00041?gko=ba14e&cid=BL20121025&utm_campaign=BL20121025
0 replies
  1. Christopher Walker
    Christopher Walker says:

    Really excellent post. If gives real insight on both being first to market and also those that "follow the leader" and many times becomes the leader eventually due to continuing to innovate and improve while many times, the leader become content with just leading. I think that once you become content, you have just began your road to irrelevance.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *