Why ‘Keeping up with the Joneses’ Is A Strategic Fail


The idea of ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ isn’t just about tracking the failures and successes of your neighbors. The same line of thinking permeates the business world, often to its detriment. Everywhere companies turn, the mantra is always about how to ‘keep up with the competition.’ In the digital age however, keeping up is no longer enough. When customers and clients want the absolute best, simply ‘keeping up’ will leave you behind the finish line. What can your business do to avoid the wild goose chase required to just keep up?

Get Ahead

First things first: don’t look to the past to help dictate your future. Just because a certain method worked five years ago does not mean it is still relevant. Keeping your strategy fresh helps you maintain a certain competitive edge.

Second, many companies mistakenly believe that by mirroring the business strategy of their competitors, they can somehow come out on top. Yet this plan of action often leaves them wondering why the organization can never get ahead. It is never wise to build a strategy based on what you think the competition might be doing. The better course of action is research – into the market your serve, the actions and preferences of your customers, and the trends that will affect your industry both in the near and long term. Knowing the industry – and your place in it – is the best preparation for getting ahead and staying there.


There is no advantage to making yourself like everyone else. To stand out and rise above you must think like an innovator, not an imitator. How can you differentiate your business from the crowded landscape if your strategic approach is exactly the same?

The key is to determine your company’s competitive advantage – what can you do better, and what do you do differently, from your competition. Your competitive edge may be around cost, features, service, quality or distribution. It could be something that is so unique, it defies its own category. Whatever the case, it is vital you understand your competitive advantage so that your customers can know it as well.

If you need help figuring out the special ‘secret sauce’ to your organization, spend a little time on the web. You’ll find plenty of guides and articles helping you drill down on your competitive strengths and find your edge.

Plan for Agility and Execution

It doesn’t matter how great your ideas are, if they cannot be implemented and carried through – a key focus of the StrategyBlocks system. A thoughtful strategic plan requires context and the flexibility necessary to adapt as needed. It must be based on sound principles that guide both the overall business goals, as well as the culture inherent within every organization.

As the great business thinker, Peter Drucker, once said:

[The theory of business] is not graven on tablets of stone. It is a hypothesis. And it is a hypothesis about things that are in constant flux – society, markets, customers, technology. And so, built into the theory of the business must be the ability to change itself.”  — The Theory of the Business, HBR, 1994

Change is vital in today’s 24/7, always on economy. But change without strategy is the very recipe for failure. A well-devised strategy should chart a new course for your organization, one that defies the principles of ‘keeping up’ and instead seeks to sharpen the skills necessary to move ahead of the competition.