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June 7, 2010

If you live in North America, you are surrounded by what our forefathers created: a capitalist society in which competition abounds and impacts industry, price, and products. Marketers will tell you, such as Ries and Trout, the key is to get to the marketplace first so that your idea has little or no competition for a time. Others will tell you there is no such thing as a new idea – they’ve all already been had. I find that sad, personally, but perhaps even worse is the amount of negative energy and effort spent in fending off competition or trying to police the ideas of others who have seemingly honed in on your marketplace.

Competition, quite simply is anything that vies for the same resources, market, or dollars that your particular product or service is targeted toward and some see the slightest of completion as a crisis. If someone else creates a magazine that targets your market, some see it as bad. If someone else uses your tagline or in our case, calls something else contagious, some would say that is trademark infringement, and in some cases it might be, but anytime you see something as a crisis, you successfully slow down your creativity to the speed of cold molasses. What if… instead… you looked at that “competition” or another person’s flattering modification of your own ideas, as a catalyst to create something new, different, bigger, or better. What if… you let go of the crisis feeling and thought “hmmm… what great confirmation that this was a good idea and I need to go with it a bit more and add to it, enhance it, build it, and create something that serves even more?”

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not naïve in this area and I’ve watched many hone in on a good idea, feeling the same pang of “darn it, I thought that idea would stick and not be copied and now I have to go create something new”, but this is what we do. Human beings have the intellectual capacity to create, intellectualize, think through, and redo. We have an abundance of ideas at our disposal and if we remove the temptation to think of contagious competition as a crisis, we may find that we can use the opportunity as a catalyst for tapping into even more abundant creativity. Hmmm… kind of sounds like being fascinated instead of frustrated, doesn’t it?

How many times have you stopped in your tracks when someone got close to your train of thought? Why did you slow the train down or even screech it to a halt? Why not shift gears, pop the clutch, add more coal and speed up to that intersection where your idea will find a new track and the other person will still be trying to figure out where your train went? I’d much rather be blazing a trail, or new track in this case, then hanging out back where two powerful trains of thought collided, derailed, and created debris. Who’s got time to clean up crud, when there’s new territory on which to lay new track ahead?

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