One of the things that so often flummoxes people about Facebook is our competitive nature. People think this comes from a fixation on other companies but that isn’t true. It comes from a fixation on people. When we see people changing behavior we ask ourselves what we can learn from it.
We follow what I call the competitive strategy. Imagine two opportunities of seemingly equal potential. One opportunity has demonstrated market success with companies already working in the space and the other is entirely novel. In this situation many people would prefer to pursue the novel approach rather than face competition.
We usually race to the competitive opportunity first, figuring we have a pretty decent chance of taking the novel approach later. We aren’t here to do the easy things for our consumers. We are here to do as much as we can for them.
There is a school of thought that we are making a mistake. We should instead be looking for new opportunities that nobody is occupying. Perhaps we should even actively avoid areas that our competitors are finding fruitful. But by definition we could do that work anytime. And areas that aren’t already growing are necessarily riskier and less likely to bear fruit. At the very least we must agree it isn’t obvious that’s what our consumers are showing us they want.
I don’t always agree with this strategy, but I do think it is instructive to call it out. Nearly every time we might be content with the value we have provided people so far we instead risk it all to try to do even more.