Few companies can follow Apple’s playbook to success — nor should they try. But is it possible to study the strategies that Apple and a handful of other companies have employed to dominate their markets? Mark McNeilly from UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School thinks so, as he recently explained in Fast Company.

To illustrate his larger lesson — that great companies compete by “winning the battle before it is fought” — Prof. McNeilly cites the examples of Apple, Google, and Cirque du Soleil and their category-creating products.


But what about the rest of us?


The short answer is that any business will benefit from a greater understanding of its competitive environment. In turn, that understanding will enable one to see the white spaces—the areas where consumer needs or desires are unmet, and where opportunities for new products and services exist.


However, you don’t have to invent an entirely new product-category to win in the marketplace. Smaller victories can build upon, and reinforce, your strategic advantage.


McNeilly’s clever reference to The Princess Bride (and specifically, the showdown between henchman Vizzini and the story’s hero Wesley) also reminds us that those who think it “inconceivable” that they will be seriously challenged by a rival (or new entrant) possess a dangerous blind spot.


14 Nov 2012