How does a business adapt in a constantly shifting economic, political, and social landscape? How does it maintain a competitive advantage?
Three basic skills are necessary to surf: balance, flexibility, and endurance. An ability to read the water to see how and where waves will develop is also useful. This same set of skills are required by leaders to guide organizations towards long-term success.
The future of competition is less about worrying what your competitors are doing and more about thinking about your own organization and how it is positioning itself to ride the waves of customer desires.
Detecting waves that are rideable requires knowledge of both the local weather conditions and of what's happening beneath the surface such as existing contours and predominant currents. To the watchful eye, patterns will begin to emerge and opportunities will begin to present themselves to those that are prepared.
Leaders need to be able to see where trends or waves will develop knowing that they will sometimes appear in random locations. Design is a tool that can be used to create ideal conditions for an organization to ride these trend waves.
Critical to both surfing in the ocean and riding business trends is knowing when to move on before the wave crashes on the shore.
For additional thoughts on competitive advantage, see Rita McGrath's talk at Campus London where she presents her book The End of Competitive Advantage and the concept of transient competitive advantage.