January 3, 2006
Everybody hates a winner
Being number one is great. In many cases:
- Customers assume you have the best product.
- Good people want to work for you.
- You can charge a premium price.
- Partnership opportunities come to you first.
- You have more resources.
- It is fun!
The downside to being number one is that everybody hates you.
Sometimes number one is hated for good reasons; maybe you stepped on a lot of fingers on your way up the ladder. Often, though, number one is hated for being number one. In the article Losers Take All Jill Neimark reports on a study (Are People Willing to Pay to Reduce Others' Incomes?) in which game-losing participants sacrificed some of their own winnings in order to reduce the winnings of the game-winners. Participants weren't just envious, they were willing to sacrifice in order to pull down number one.
A few weeks ago the Economist ran a story subtitled “being second best is underrated.” It points out that “Ford, Burger King and Target do not have documentary-makers queuing up to attack them” the way GM, McDonald’s and Wal-Mart do, and that Apple’s doesn’t have as many hackers attacking its operating system as Microsoft.
Among the other benefits of second place:
- You have more room to grow.
- Number one takes all the heat for unpopular industry practices.
- Underdogs get nicer press.
- It is easier to innovate if you are not the standard-bearer.
Jack Welch famously said that you should be number one or number two in a category or get out. There is a lot to be said for being number two.
Posted by Bob Pritchett at January 3, 2006 6:05 AM
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