How to gain competitive advantage in today’s fast moving world.

Arnold Palmer says he always thinks two shots ahead before hitting the ball. Wayne Gretzke skates to where the puck will be rather than where the puck is. Terry Bradshaw always thought through two different plays before he called his signals. So what do these three sports legends have in common? All of them put the strategy of anticipation into their game plan.

This strategy is a proactive decision-making process, not a reactive process, that enables you to keep one step ahead of the competition in a world where being even with your competitors is a prelude to falling behind.

A corporate-level example of this strategy is the New Generation of Computers program established last year by IBM. This well-handled campaign generated an enormous amount of interest for IBM. However, Fujitsu, one of IBM’s main competitors not only used this campaign to their advantage, but did so using IBM’s money.

In the course of researching and reading industry literature, Fujitsu learned of IBM’s formal release date for a new generation of computers similar to a soon-to-be released new line of their own. Realizing the impact of the information they had acquired, Fujitsu laid low, let IBM arrange all the formal media plans and announcements, and then set their release date on day before IBM’s. Almost all of the advertising costs for the “new generation of computers” was paid by IBM in a very brilliant campaign, while most of the free public relations generated went to Fujitsu, who scooped IBM’s announcement. Fujitsu’s anticipation provided major market impact at minimum expense – a coup that will be long remembered in the computer and advertising industry.

Such examples abound in today’s competitive global market where communication is instant, transportation is close to instant and product secrets are almost impossible to keep. Let’s look at this strategy from a management point of view.

Here is one of my new Faranda Maxims: “never let a subordinate come to you with a problem. Make him/her come to you with three to five SOLUTIONS to the problem.”

If you follow the advice of this maxim, you will be training your subordinates to make decisions. This will speed the “time to market” equation which gives you the competitive advantage over your competition. You will allow your people to help you anticipate what is needed and then get it done. Most organizations do not allow this type of subordinate decision making. However, most successful organizations encourage it – but keep this in mind. Subordinates can waste a great deal of management’s time by failing to make decisions. Conversely, a manager can waste much of a subordinate’s time by failing to properly train him/her to make decisions.

Finally, this maxim shows that management must free people to think and create – to empower them to take responsibility for their actions. No organization can grow based on one person’s decisions and actions. Organizations only grow when the team works toward the organization’s vision and mission.

Let’s look at the strategy of anticipation from a subordinate’s point of view.

Most people really do come up with strategic ideas that could help their company gain a competitive advantage. But these ideas don’t usually make it to management because people do not feel free to suggest them. When they do make a suggestion the response is often very slow, nonexistent or negative.

There needs to be a revolution of thought that makes the strategy of anticipation a national trait and the use and appreciation of competitive ideas a national anthem. Without this, the “Star Spangled Banner” will become a swan song for the world’s most amazing and successful nation.

The strategy of anticipation is not a technique; it’s a state of mind; it is not a tool, it’s a frame of reference; its not a reaction; its an action. We either accept and use this state of mind or we reject it.

Utilization leads to par golf, winning seasons and MVP awards. Rejection leads to stagnation and loss of competitive advantage. By making the strategy of anticipation part of your organization’s vision and mission you will reap the benefits of competitive advantage, increased market share and long-term profitability.