Secret Judo Guides Start-Up Success

What do you know about martial arts? Here’s a few things I found through a combination of sources:

  • Karate – is a series of punches, blocks and kicks that focuses on strength and offensive techniques; a primary theme is to either put or catch the opponent off guard and then attack.
  • Tae Kwan Do – incorporates many aspects of karate, but with more emphasis on the use of feet and spinning/flying kicks.
  • Jujitsu – uses strikes, kicks, strangles, locks and takedowns to disarm the competition, still aimed at offensive techniques for the most part.
  • Judo – uses throws and its intent is to avoid an opponent’s strength while redirecting its power to one’s benefit.

Tom Tunguz (whom I have quoted before), in his blog Ex Post Facto, encourages entrepreneurs to recognize the highlights of  judo philosophy  in never trying to fight strength with strength, and to find ways to maximize leverage. Tom also references Peter Thiel (from a series of lectures given at Stanford Graduate School of Business) who describes the use of a “secret” to secure a unique niche within your target market. The “secret,” though is not as one would think, but instead “something just not widely believed to be achievable or feasible. In other words, it’s an insight, a thesis that isn’t widely held.” The Secret becomes the “flywheel” of Jim Collins’ strategy – a series of well-executed small decisions that others find it near impossible to duplicate. For many entrepreneurs, the choice of distribution channels is a ripe field for building out one’s “secret.”

Tunguz writes of distribution:

Many companies are now using distribution as their secret – mobile app stores and Facebook Open Graph enable startups to access hundreds of millions of users in ways that incumbents simply aren’t prepared to leverage. Expensify uses mobile app stores to acquire hundreds of thousands of SMBs in ways that their market’s incumbent, Concur (market cap $3B), simply can’t copy. Branchout is building a massive job network on top of Facebook to compete with LinkedIn. If LinkedIn were to copy Branchout, they would marginalize the value of their existing network because LinkedIn would cede their graph to Facebook – an example of the classic “innovator’s dilemma.”

In order to remain relevant, (solve the innovator’s dilemma), entrepreneurs must find a way to continue to grow new ideas within their organizations, less their businesses become to mainstream and lose their uniqueness. This is where/how moving to principles-based strategy trumps reliance on a skilled technician and his or her own suite of strengths and abilities. Continue to recognize what strengths competitors have, then find a way to use those strengths against the competition and towards one’s own competitive advantage!

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