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Going For Gold

February 21, 2010

Don’t bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself.

– William Faulkner

I can imagine this quote running through the minds of the Olympians competing in Vancouver.  They need to push themselves to their own limitations to have the best time, race, jump, game or performance of their athletic careers.  They do not have the luxury of complete information on their competitors and knowing what was enough to win in the last Olympics will not help them win the current title of Gold medalist.

If what it takes to win gold is finding out what you are capable of and then striving to achieve it, then why do most people and companies focus so much time and money on comparing themselves to others?  Yes, I’m talking about benchmarking.  How do we compare to other companies in the same industry, in other industries, countries, etc.?

Instead of spending time and resources comparing the company to others, perhaps more time should be spent finding out just how much hidden opportunity lies within.  One of the biggest ah-ha moments of the Boot Camp experience is the realization that the potential of their own company far exceeds not only what they thought was possible but also what the competition is capable of delivering.

The journey to business innovation and excellence starts with knowing just how well, or how poorly, the company is doing today.  Then look at how the company could be if it’s potential were reached.  Probably a lot better than how the competition is doing today.  Apply the resources to systematically achieving this potential – the company’s personal best – and the focus on the competition doesn’t matter anymore.  They will be struggling to keep up.

We look up to Olympic athletes for their focus, determination and dissatisfaction with every performance. They strive to set new records, standards and create new possibilities.  They push to outperform themselves.  So why don’t we do the same with the companies we lead?  Stop benchmarking against others and start comparing our organizations to their own potential.