I don’t always think about business while watching a children’s movie, but recently it dawned on me that there can be many relevant lessons. For example, while watching the three Despicable Me films, it became clear that all the movies are a long, exciting competition between other super villains to be the best. When the Minions and Gru battled it out, I wondered how it would be if Gru used the superpowers of his competition, like the piranha gun or giant bubbles, to his own advantage instead of fighting to destroy them.
In business, poor rhetoric about our competition is similar to the plotline of every superhero story. Either a) the employees don't quite know who the competitors are because asking about them is a taboo topic; or b) a story emerges to villainize the competitors. Stories like, "They aren't as good as us" or "We can do it better; don't let them take our place” are spread like wildfire without real data to back up the stories. Think about our recent Superbowl … can you imagine if the Eagles didn't know they were going to play against the Patriots before going out on the field? Would they know how to create their plays and strategies? Probably not. Champion businesses should know their competition and change villainizing sentiment to curiosity through comparative benchmarking.
Benchmarking comes from the Six Sigma practice of continuous improvement. It compares one's business processes and performance metrics to industry bests and best practices from other companies.
We should continuously ask who our competitors are and know the services they provide. We should ask, "How is what they do better than what we do," and "What can we learn from their expertise? Is there something that our company does that sets us completely apart from them?"
Comparing the differences and using the wisdom of other companies to our own benefit allows one to attract and retain customers and employees. A business can then continuously compete by adding value to services/products all through a data driven analysis. We can give our customers confidence in knowing "why" we do what we do and "why" we are their first choice. Competitors are not the villains they are painted to be when we can see their superpowers and apply it to our own strategy.
* Despicable Me image is property of Illumination Entertainment and Universal Pictures *