Flip Your Competitive Paranoia
Updated: Dec 22, 2020
Former Intel CEO Andrew Grove famously liked to remind his employees: “Only the paranoid survive. Paranoia, when properly deployed, can serve as a powerful morale booster—even a competitive weapon—to organizations.”
We all have competitive paranoia. And it's good for us. It's part of what drives us to get more done. In fact, we usually experience it at two altitudes: (1) about the company we own or work for, and (2) on a personal level. We want our company to beat the competition and we want to pull ahead of peers for the next promotion, raise, or opportunity.
Here's the issue: we obsess about what others are DOING to get ahead. We worry about what they are drafting, launching, building, winning, and achieving. We are paranoid about who are they meeting with, talking to, and forming connections with. We stew over what else are they joining, adding, buying, and promoting.
This often triggers us to think we're not doing enough. So we add, add, add, things to our plate. At a company level, we launch new initiatives. At a personal, level we just "grind" harder to try and pull ahead.
Have you ever been worried about what the competition is NOT doing? You should be.
You and the competition get the same #168hours each week. They are not simply "working harder," they are likely working smarter. They're saying "no" to a lot of low value things. That is what has freed up their time to pull ahead. THAT is what should have you paranoid.
These are the questions that should be running through our head every day:
What did the competition skip, dodge, delete or tune-out today that I wasted time on?
How many hours did they win back this week? Did I win back that many too?
What was their "yes" to "no" ratio this week and was it more balanced than mine?
Try this: before next week, make a list of everything the competition is likely NOT doing. At a company level, that could be processes, projects, data, customers, meetings, events and marketing. At a personal level (for those you're competing with for the next promotion, raise or opportunity), this could be reports, proposals, travel, debates, meetings, projects, emails, IM, distractions, one-on-ones, and networking.
Your competition is out there saying "no" right now. Are you? Use your Not Doing List to find low value things you should also stop spending time on. Doing this will free up the hours you need to focus on things that will help you get ahead.
"Competitive paranoia is what propels our organizations to innovate and stay ahead of the competition."
Ajay Banga, Mastercard CEO
HBR: When Paranoia makes sense How Leaders Lead with David Novak: Leading with Decency - Ajay Banga, CEO of Mastercard