Take More Risks and Create a Stronger Competitive Advantage

By definition, competitive advantage doesn’t mean doing exactly what everybody else is doing. But it does mean taking risks and moving away from what we know — something that is neither comfortable nor easy to do.

Have you ever seen movies where the hero swings across an impossible impasse, runs up the side of a building, or does a backflip off a dumpster? Then you’ve witnessed parkour, where adventurous types get from A to B using only their bodies and their surroundings to propel themselves. To avoid injury, parkour practitioners must look at their environment in ways that most of us can’t even imagine.

When it comes to the competitive landscape, I reckon we could learn a lot from this idea. We tend to see our market as a familiar track we have run around many times before, rather than as an exciting playground full of new things to try.

For example, in Australia, professional football is big money, and all AFL clubs are looking for an edge to win a premiership flag.

In April, The Age ran a story about Peta Searle, who gave away her job as a high school PE teacher 7 years ago to become a full-time football coach. Searle worked as assistant coach in the VFL (the amateur league), where she built the competition’s best defence back line at Port Melbourne. Port won a premiership in 2011 and came runner-up in 2012. Unfortunately, Searle was paid only $5,000 a year in the role, and needed a job with the AFL to make a decent living. Despite her outstanding track record, she couldn’t get one, and had to give away her football dream.

From a purely commercial standpoint, this is crazy. Searle is a proven performer. If she had been a bloke, her results would have started a bidding war.

Fortunately, Peta Searle’s story has a happy ending. This month, St Kilda recruited her as the AFL’s first female development coach. I’m guessing that St Kilda will have one of the best backlines in the competition before too long, and with it a sustainable competitive advantage.

If you’re pitching for a multimillion dollar contract, you will be in a competition of equals who can probably do the job just as well as you can. Often, it’s the very small things that will tip the buyer over the edge to choose a winner. What will yours be?