zito_curveball.jpg     Curveball – Strategies to fool the competition

An effective curve will get rivals to:

  • Do something dumb that they otherwise wouldn’t have
  • Not do something smart that they otherwise would have

4 types of curveball:

  • Draw your rival out of the profit zone: lure competitors into disadvantageous areas – for example, by competing for, but intentionally failing to win, the business of less profitable customers
  • Employ unfamiliar techniques: knock rivals off balance by importing a technique used in another industry – for example, employing the retailer’s hard sell in the stodgy world of retail financial services.
  • Disguise your success: veil your success by achieving an advantage through unlikely means – for example, generating product sales through your service operations.
  • Let rivals misinterpret your success: allow rivals to act on a conventional but incomplete explanation for your success – for example, squeezing costs rather than aggressively utilizing assets.

Where curveballs come from:

  • Making marginal customers seem attractive
  • Importing best practices
  • Stealth sales
  • Extreme asset utilization

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This post is based on the article Curveball: Strategies to Fool the Competition, written by George Stalk, Jr., published in the HBR of September 2006