My friend Andrew just came up with a brilliant concept that we’re calling The Three Tiers of Competitive Advantage.
He pitched it to me as a fantasy parable where a king is preparing to die and he brings his three sons in to pick which will follow him.
The first talks about how he’s unbeatable with a sword. The second talks about how he is unmatched with a bow. And the third talks about how he’s the master of the eye, i.e., gathering information about the enemy.
The father picks the son who has mastered information because he is able to attack the other two warriors when they’re weak while avoiding being attacked himself.
The sword, the bow, and the eye
The concept here is that there are three main approaches to competition. You can be brilliant with a sword (highly local and tactical), you can be good with the bow (nimble, strike from a distance, stay out of range of the enemy’s attacks), or you can be a master of the eye (not being targeted in the first place, striking when unsuspected, etc.
These are hierarchical.
The sword is the least mature. The bow is second. And the eye is the most advanced.
Mapping to any competition
My mind immediately went to business.
If you make widgets your main production of the main widget is sword. Adding innovative new features to the widget in an iterative way (but faster and smarter), is bow. And predicting what the next widget will be and being there before anyone else—that’s eye.
It’s remarkable how many things this concept applies to.
Think about what you do. Which discipline do you represent?