Blog #621 Cheating

Competitive Advantage (and Cheating)

Hey – I want a competitive advantage!!  Every company, every business who wants an increased market share, more success wants a competitive advantage.  

In sports, that competitive advantage might be the best quarterback in the league, the southpaw picture who has a jerky motion that is hard to hit, the fastest skater with the fastest slap shot in hockey.  

In cars, one company has the best gas mileage (or electric mileage); another whose cars can go from 0 to 100 in the shortest time; another company with the best safety record; and another with lower prices.  Every one of those can give a competitive advantage.

You also want the public to THINK your company is the best – brand loyalty.  “I always buy XYZ because they have the best products and service.”

But, sometimes getting a competitive advantage might mean using some (umm …) shady tactics.  A candidate for political office gets a boost from an ‘unnamed’ special interest group spending big bucks to get their point made.  Maybe it is the National Rifle Association with lots of campaign funds to help get gun supporting people elected to congress. Many organizations have lobbyists who visit lawmakers to make sure they understand the issues “in the proper way” (that is, the way the lobbying group views the issue).  

In politics, throwing mud is also a way to make the opponent look bad.  Innuendo as to an opponent’s voting record can be an issue, or that the opponent missed 40% of the votes in the last session.  Half-truths do come in. “Candidate X was on the important Ways-and-Means committee and missed 40% of all the meetings in the last session.”  That might be true – but what was going on in those meetings. Did candidate X have an aide there to take notes? Was the committee just doing fact-finding on an issue and candidate X was there are all of the meetings where important votes were taken?  

But, sometimes that line between competitive advantage disappears.  I want to call that ‘cheating’. Maybe it is something like “Ford has a new engine that is more fuel efficient and gives both better mileage and is more luxurious”.  So, Honda buys a Ford and dissects the engine to find out how it is better, and in a year or two; Honda has improved on the Ford engine as they have ‘stolen’ the concepts.  In most countries patients, trademarks, copyrights and more exist to protect idea, products and processes.

Now, I want my children to have a competitive advantage in life.  I want them to have the best grades, go to the best colleges, get the best jobs – and I will do what I need to do to get that to happen (such as bribe college officials to let my son be on the Yale fencing team – so he can be a Yale graduate.

I graduated from Winona State University in Winona Minnesota.  I had an excellent experience and worked very hard. It was a good fit for me.  I taught at Dakota State for eighteen years – and it also was an excellent campus with strong professors (like me).  I have a PhD from Nebraska, again another school with a good reputation. Some major universities have freshmen and sophomore classes taught by adjunct (part-time) or graduate students.  I remember an international graduate student at one of my colleges that was very poor in the classroom due to her lack of English skills.

We find industrial espionage – and even country espionage (call it spying) everywhere (so it seems).  My company, my college, my sports team, my life needs to be the ‘best’. So, I’m going to find a way to make it the best (even if it means stealing ideas and concepts from others in the same field).   

I guess it is part of life to be competitive and want to win – but we find “win at all costs” as an attitude that goes past the boundaries.  Step on others to climb the corporate ladder; cheat, steal, slander the others, and I look good!!! For me, I can’t quite do that. Maybe I still have some decency in me (and maybe I am retired and I’m not fighting that fight anymore).  

Did the Russians sabotage our elections?  Those bad Russians!! Are the Chinese stealing our technical expertise?  Those lousy Chinese!! (And, beyond my knowledge), I suspect my country doing some less than wonderful things to the Russians and Chinese.  

So, that delicate tightrope walk – I need a competitive advantage but I don’t want to cheat or steal to get it.  (But, maybe with enough money, I, too, can have my child with a degree from Harvard!!)


Posted by Bruce White

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