If any team, even the reigning NFL champs New Orleans Saints, practiced seven days a week but played no real games against opponents, they would inevitably grow weak and slow. Without regular games against tough opponents, they would have no way to improve and sharpen their individual and team skills. They could not identify if their game plan was effective, which specific plays worked or which players were truly great. Even constant practicing in the absence of regular competition would lead a great team to a failure.
In business, we see the same thing happen. Showing up every day and doing the same old thing day in / day out will not help us improve. We must regularly put our company up against tough competition in order for us to learn where we are strong and where we need to improve. The opponent we select cannot be “internal standards” either since we may likely set a goal that is too low. (If the Saints played the staff at St. Mary’s Nursing Home, it might technically be called “competition” and the Saints would surely win, but setting themselves up for an easy win would in no way help them improve as a team.) We must look for other great companies to compete against or a set of outrageously high business standards to reach for the competition to show us where we are both strong and weak.
Competition is vital for any team (or business) trying to get faster, leaner, more efficient, more agile and in this economy, we cannot afford to be anything less than the great in these areas. Winning motivates people to stretch a little more each time and trophies are important reminders of this feeling. Find ways for your people to compete and win. Look especially for hard-to-get awards and trophies. Never underestimate the ability for ordinary people to achieve extraordinary results when challenged effectively. What this competition will do for you is incredible! It will show you and everyone on your staff the path to success and greatness. You can afford to be no less!