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Posted: October 16, 2013

Taking the dogfight to a higher plane

It's about doing something different

Todd Ordal

I used to fly airplanes. Most of my time was spent in a twin-engine aircraft flying business trips. It was an efficient way for me to get around because, at the time, I was in charge of hundreds of retail stores countrywide.

In addition to flying business trips, I liked to fly just for fun. This included sightseeing, aerobatics and — perhaps the most fun I ever had in an airplane — simulated combat.

I suspect there’s a real fighter pilot reading this who could give a more amped-up version, but here’s the citizen dog-fighting version. You surrender a large sum of money to fly a pre-jet military training airplane that can pull lots of G’s without breaking and has a tacking system to simulate a gun. You and your opponent start with both planes at the same altitude and fly head-on into each other with enough horizontal separation to not go “smack.”

When you’re exactly opposite each other, the fight is on. You turn into him and pull like crazy, trying to get behind the other airplane while your opponent does the same thing. The goal is to lock onto his airplane with your tracking system for a few seconds, simulating a gun.

His airplane erupts in smoke just like in the movies, and you win. If you lose, your airplane spews smoke and you sulk as you fly back into starting position. It stinks—literally and figuratively! The best tactician prevails, just like a competitive business situation. However …

There’s some strategy. One strategy is to go vertical — take the plane to another plane, if you will. While he turns left, you go up, actually oblique. Works like a charm! If he isn’t expecting it, you’ll usually get on his backside pretty quickly and smoke him.

Too many businesses keep turning circles around each other, round and round in a horizontal plain with no one gaining a significant advantage. They should look for a way to go oblique, taking the fight to another level. It’s not easy to do, and it requires you to think differently about the battle.

Strategy isn’t about doing something better; it’s about doing something different (doing something better, execution, is terribly important as well)! I recently worked with a client who was fighting for market share, cutting prices and reducing expenses, but all in a stagnant market. They were going round and round in a horizontal plane.

We found a way to address the underlying need in a different fashion with different products, taking the fight to another level. His competitors will soon have smoke coming out of their ears!

Todd Ordal is President of Applied Strategy LLC. Todd helps CEOs achieve better financial results, become more effective leaders and sleep easier at night. He speaks, writes, consults and advises on issues of strategy and leadership. Todd is a former CEO and has led teams as large as 7,000. Follow Todd on Twitter here. You can also find Todd at http://www.appliedstrategy.info,  303-527-0417 or todd@appliedstrategy.info

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