Larry Page on Competitors

On Wednesday, Businessweek published a rare candid interview with Google CEO Larry Page.  My favorite quote is in the last paragraph:

For a lot of companies, it’s useful for them to feel like they have an obvious competitor and to rally around that. I personally believe that it’s better to shoot higher. You don’t want to be looking at your competitors. You want to be looking at what’s possible and how to make the world better.

Now, in context of the previous questions, he was partially taking a jab at Apple when he made that remark. Still, I find that to be an incredibly refreshing perspective from the leader of a large public company. Which is why Google does crazy cool things like self-driving cars and augmented reality glasses. Even products like Google Docs and Google Apps for Business seemed sort of crazy when they arrived, but have turned out to be incredibly visionary.

And of course, plenty that Google does (see: Wave and Buzz) fails. But I love the overall mentality. It’s the same mentality that we have towards our competitors. Rather than be reactionary to what they do, we’re focused on creating great products for our customers now, while also trying to anticipate what their needs will be one/two/five years down the road.

To me that’s more motivating, more rewarding, and more fun than trying to focus primarily on “beating” a competitor.

5 comments on Larry Page on Competitors

  1. Mark W. says:

    Adam, thanks for highlighting the interview and Larry Page’s quote.
    After reading the quote and then the article, I thought of golf as an analogy where your competitor isn’t really anybody you’re playing with but rather yourself and the course. If you really want to play better, you need to work on your own skills to improve your game and perform better on the course. So, basically, your competitors are other people on the course and the marketplace is the course where you want to do your best. It’s just bad form to talk “trash” to your playing partner. 🙂

  2. Rob says:

    I think focussing on competitors is inevitable in the beginning because you’re just getting going and trying to get a handle on the market and review all the solutions they’ve created to the problems in your marketplace. However, beyond keeping a pulse on your industry, it’s not a good idea to focus on competitors. Doing that presupposes you’re playing a zero-sum game and as you say, it’s a reactionary way of working.

    Mary Schmich said it best: “Don’t waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind. The race is long, but in the end it’s only with yourself.”

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