The Psychology of Winning

Pondering the mysteries of the universe.  Watching Major League Baseball’s All Star Game last night at the soon-to-be-torn-down Yankee Stadium, I was thinking about rivalries.  Here in the Midwest the Cardinals and the Cubs are a classic example.  The two teams could be tied for last place yet their games always sell out both in St. Louis and Chicago.

The fiercest rivalry in baseball has to be the one between the Yankees and the Boston Red Sox.  There is serious bad blood between the two teams’ players, the coaches, and the fans.  Where there’s a certain good-natured respect between the Cardinals and Cubs, the animosity between the Yankees and the Red Sox seems to be much more serious.

So, I’m watching the game when the Sox’  J. D. Drew (a former Cardinal) hits a home for the American League.  Under normal circumstances the boos would have been deafening. But a member of the hated Boston side hitting a homer in the Bronx is greeted with cheers.  Not just cheers, but a standing ovation.  Are we in some strange parallel universe?  Is the end of the world at hand?

No.  On this night, for Yankee fans, Drew is on "our side".  He’s one of us.  The desire for an American League victory and home field advantage in the World Series is greater than the disdain New Yorkers usually have for anyone who wears a Red Sox uniform.

Of course, if Drew, or any Boston player were to be traded to the Yankees, any bad feelings would disappear as soon as he put on the pin stripes.  It’s just the nature of sports.

So, how does this apply to our businesses?  It seems like the same rules apply.  We all have competitors.  Under normal circumstances, no matter how nice we are and no matter how nice the other guy (or gal) is, we’re competitive creatures.  We may nod and smile when we meet at a trade show or some other event, but deep down we want every sale.  We know we can’t get them all, but we sure do want to.

Yet, we’re all better served by increasing size of the pie than we are by just increasing our share.  If we could work together to increase the total market by 20% ,  maintaining our current market share, wouldn’t we be better off than if we just took an additional 10% of business from the store down the street.  Of course we would.

As long as we don’t break any anti-trust laws, isn’t it a better situation if we cooperate with our competitors to make the whole market better?  The first place I’d start would be to make it a rule that no one in my store could ever say anything bad about the competition or the brands that they carry.  Even Wally World offers the customer something (low quality/low price).  Your customer has probably shopped there.  If you tell her that everything they sell is junk, you’ve just insulted every purchase she’s ever made there.

As they say in politics, "Keep your friends close and your enemies closer."  When you have a chance to work with your competitor in some kind of local civic event or show or anywhere else, be the most pleasant, most cooperative person they ever met.   Work to build the industry and not to tear down someone else. 

Win that all star game.  (Wouldn’t it be nice if the National League could win, just once.  Please.)

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