It’s critical to business success to spot potential innovative competitors and strategic category killers before they emerge. Doing this is easier said than done, but these three exercises for strategic thinking can generate early insights on potential challengers:

  • We’ve previously covered the importance of looking at benefits your brand provides and determining what potential substitutes could provide the same benefits. Stretching your thinking with this strategy exercise will identify various potential non-traditional competitors.
  • A second strategy exercise is to look at the “parts” that make up your business, then identify who else could put those same parts together (potentially through outsourcing) to quickly enter your marketplace. For example, a restaurant might be generally described as performing food creation and delivery functions to get food to diners. Convenience stores can provide comparable delivery mechanisms/locations for food. A well-established fast food chain could potentially be threatened by a smaller competitor partnering with a big convenience store chain to grow its market presence significantly.
  • Another strategy exercise is determining who else serves your customers in complementary or even unrelated ways. If any of these organizations could use relationships with your customers to grow a presence and compete more directly in your market, they’ve got to be considered potential competitive threats.

Using these three exercises for strategic thinking will better prepare you to anticipate and position your business against competitive threats your potential competitors may not even realize as opportunities yet. – Mike Brown

If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle Plus

2 Responses to “3 Strategic Thinking Exercises to Spot Emerging Competitors”

  1. Hayk says:

    Hi Mike,

    Pithy and to the point!

    Perhaps another possible way of getting ahead of time for potential competition is look at a wider audience, not solely current customers, services and parts of the business model. Widening the views to those who are the 2nd tier, right after customers, who could be sensibilized and acquired as customers and even at the 3rd-tier, the non-customers who would potentially benefit from existing and complementary services of the firm. Or in brief, do a thought experiment or even little a test on those, pre-emptively seeing what new/emerging adjacent amrkets are ripe for the firm’s competitors, thus the firm.
    Or in other words, demand innovation, which becomes especially relevant in struggling economic times.And lastly, perhaps seeing what the is the potential of “pyramid model” – so to speak – meaning what similar products at a lower end of current services can be provided. This exercise migth be beneficial as large amount of potential competition comes at lower layers first, then spreading up, if successful.


  1. 15 Ways Whoever Is Going to Disrupt Your Market Isn’t Like You | The Brainzooming Group | Strategy Consulting and Strategic Planning - April 13, 2012

    […] Are fine with putting together parts and pieces tried and thrown out by others to compete in new […]