By Ben Gilad, ACI Faculty

I just finished teaching the Competitive Blindspots and Cross Competitor Analysis courses for the CIP-I level in our October 2014 program. There were several notable things about this Fall class.

  1. It was younger. The alternative is that I am getting older which is simply inconceivable.
  2. It was a funny crowd and very imaginative. In the Cross Competitor workshop several teams came up with competitive predictions that defied the pattern of previous classes. I typically can predict what most teams will say (within reason), but this time I couldn’t. It was fun listening to them but the more important point was my realization that there is a lesson to be learned in what they actually predicted. These young teams predicted much more volatility in performance (market share growth or decline) than I expected. So I started thinking – why? And this is my perspective:

— Age and experience doesn’t have much effect on brilliance – sometime just the reverse as I can personally attest – but it does teach one that even bad management decisions and wrong strategy doesn’t take down established brands very quickly. Big brands die slowly. Similarly, in highly contested markets, growth in market share takes time, and consistency, and consolidation.

— Perhaps more interesting is my more speculative hypothesis about the effect of age. The industry we analyzed in the course was old fashioned manufacturing. The younger analysts are accustomed to the fast pace of high tech and internet industries, where a company can grow or die extremely fast (think Yahoo, Netscape, and the opposite, Facebook and Instagram). Some people, and some pundits like to refer to these as new super competitive environments. That’s ironic, as the term highly contested markets is at least 60 years old. There is no super competitive environment, as all environments are super competitive (just ask the CI analyst). However, pace of change in industries subject to the whims of teenagers and other social network users is faster than in an industry producing insurance policies, or oil drills, or chainsaws.

If you happen to work in these whimsical industries, Blindspots, arrogance, and lack of true strategic intelligence (not information), will simply kill you quicker.