Have you wondered why endurance athletes compete in a pack? What law of attraction pulls so many people together in such a close proximity? There are some demonstrated benefits, such as drafting a competitor in a cycling race can provide 30% less work than leading. But why is it rare for us to see a marathon or stage of the Tour de France where a lone competitor strikes out by themselves at the start and attempts to solo to victory. Breakaways take place but often the attempts become more bold when the finish line is closer and the certainty of reaching it becomes higher.
How often is our strategy determined by what our peers and competitors have done? Many organizations perform an environmental scan prior to launching a strategic planning effort. This exercise can be illuminating and constraining at the same time. I frequently find organizations gravitate towards changes that competitors have made. Another enterprise hired a Director of Advancement to help them with their fundraising effort. The conversation quickly becomes, ‘should we hire a professional for our development campaign?’ Organization X will produce a unique marketing piece and suddenly replicas appear from other organizations. Mirroring another cause is human nature but expecting to standout by staying in the pack is difficult and sometimes irrational.
Is your goal to finish the race with the other organizations? Robert Egger in his book, Begging for Change would argue that this strategy can be optimal for your organization if you rely on the success of partner enterprises. It is a worthy philosophy to consider.
Are you in the race and running with the pack because it is the optimal way for your organization to advance its mission? Are you trying to standout as an organization? So when do you take over the lead? Do you even need to be in the race?