Who do you think are the competitors for Disney’s Magic Kingdom Resort? If the usual suspects like Universal Studios and Six Flags come to your mind, you are not alone. Google also makes the shortlist. If you are intrigued, let me share with you my “ah ha” moment. Before that, some of my traditional assumptions.
Competition- the way we know it.
I figured early in life that relativity is a yardstick measuring success- the winner in a sprint race is the fastest one among the pool of runners, not the fastest in the world. The law of demand and supply could apply to careers too. When supply of your skills are low but demand is high, the odds for career progression increases.
When I was first exposed to Michael Porter’s five forces that talked about the competitive landscape for business - it crystallized my framework for business success. Further, the five forces reinforced that knowing competition is key.
Through the years, I had gotten comfortable with the definition of competitors. Marketing guru Philip Kotler defines competition as a company competing for the same customer's available money or time e.g. soap operas in the US were losing share to social gaming like Zynga. Even then, how is Google a competitor for Disney’s Magic Kingdom?
Magic Kingdom’s competition is Google
Last summer, I went to enjoy Magic Kingdom with my family and returned with a few business insights that reshaped my thinking. One of them was on competition, I stumbled upon it by finding ways to minimize the time in the queue.
I had downloaded Disney’s app for resorts as I could schedule up to three rides using their fast pass plus and avoid the lines. In the process, I got familiar with their app. While chit chatting with one of Disney associates , I causally shared an observation that many aspects in their app like digital park map with real time wait times and the search features reminded me of Google.
She replied with the earnestness, that is a trademark of Disney associates, “Customers compare us with Google (information at fingertips) and we are working on exceeding that expectation”. I was stunned. If “customer centricity” is key to product development and everything is relative in career and business – why can’t we bring customer viewpoint as we evaluate our competition?
I had gone to Disney’s Magic Kingdom to enjoy the atmosphere and live the moments with my family. I walked away not only with cherished magical memories, but also a business profoundness that made me re-think my own assumptions and definitions on competition.
Career and Business Impact
What is wonderful about this viewpoint is that it brings in the concept of how you are perceived relative to competition. How you progress in your career stems from what your organizational decision makers are looking for and who they implicitly compare you with. Your skills help shape the initial springboard but knowing how they perceive success in roles,could help prepare ahead and shape your own success.
Last few months after the vacation, I started to notice that customers are comparing an electric company with mobile companies. Initially I was perplexed but it all makes sense after connecting the dots. Both industries, the tower infrastructure is taken for granted until an outage event. There are parallels between the billing and contracting structures as well. Now, I am actively looking for what works and doesn’t work in both industries- it has been eye opening and fun.
Redefinition: Competition is anyone the customer compares you with
Here is an interesting statistic: 88% of Fortune 500 in 1954 are not in the 2014 list. Many were blindsided by disruptively innovative companies that yanked their customers. May be the definition of a competitor needs a relook?
Rather than the traditional definition of competition as the usual suspects who go after the same pot of customer’s money, it would be prudent to broaden the scope by redefining it as “anyone the customer compares you with”. Thinking a little deeply, it also provides an interesting way to get leading indicators of competition that blind side many mammoth companies.
The takeaway - relativity does not need to reside with physicists led by Einstein. It could be very relevant to both business and careers – just be on the watch out for comparisons by others with an open mind, proactively take action to learn and adapt– success will be the crystal ball with your name embellished on it. Magic Kingdom trip ensured that I added two words in that sentence– “by others” – your management/leadership and your customers.
What are your thoughts and experience on competition in career or business? Look forward to your views in the comments section.
About the author: Karthik Rajan is Regional Via President at GDF Suez Resources
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