There are two popular views on ‘being successful’:
One says that you should look at the best in your industry and copy what they’re doing (and try to improve that while you’re at it). The theory goes that you can’t fail if you do what’s already working.
The second says that leaders are more successful and as a result you should strike out your own path and not copy others. Be an innovator, in other words.
Which one works? The reality is that both strategies, on their own, don’t work as well as when you combine the two.
Learning from your competition is smart because it shows you what you’re missing out on. Better yet, when you’re analysing your competition you invariably find things that they’re NOT doing well, which gives you more areas in which you can improve. Innovation comes from finding gaps in a niche and dominating them – however you don’t dominate in a vacuum; the lessons learned from observing your competition (especially how they’ve risen to the top) can be used by you for your own success.
Learning from others requires humility. Striking out your own path requires courage. Being #1 requires you to move fast and take risks.
And you need all 3 to be successful.