I’m getting ready to go to a trade show. While I’m there, as I always do, I’ll spend a fair amount of time checking out the competition. Even though I tend to want to look for chinks in their armor and catalog all the “mistakes” I think they’re making, deep down I know that is completely the wrong approach.

I’ll learn a lot more by figuring out what they’re doing right.

Sure, I’ve caught myself (more than once) taking a point-my-finger-and-laugh attitude, asking my compatriots, Can you believe they’re doing THAT? But honestly, that really doesn’t get me anywhere. Sniffing out the missteps and failures like a personal injury attorney chasing an ambulance doesn’t give me any reason to improve my game. On the contrary, it allows me to slip into the complacency of the self-righteous and give myself more credit than I deserve.

Obviously, some customers choose goods and services other than those offered by my company. They do this because they believe the competition does something or communicates something better than my company. Focusing on what the competition does right helps me better understand that dynamic. That is, I can learn why some people choose them over us when I study what works. And then I can figure out how to do it better. I’ll know how and where to step up my game.

There’s a reason why people don’t study failed portraits; they study the masterpieces.

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