How to Out-Behave Your Business Competitors

Business consultant Dov Seidman says in a new book "How: Why How We Do Anything Means Everything … in Business (and in Life)" that companies that are managed with greater integrity and openness than their competitors will find greater success.

Seidman says that in our hyperconnected world, prosperity, security and lasting achievement are found not in outperforming the competition but in outbehaving it.

Memos, financial reports and the inner workings of companies can be dissected easily in chat rooms and broadcast online. With at-the-moment, worldwide news coverage and increasing numbers of avid "whistle-bloggers," almost nothing goes unreported.

The book provides practical advice on how to bring this transparency and integrity to your business. You can read a chapter below.

Chapter 1: From Land to Information Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
-- T. S. Eliot

Sometimes, to look ahead we must look back, in this case, way back, to feudal Europe circa 1335 A.D. In the 1330s, England needed wine. It needed wine because in the century before, Norman fashions had become all the rage and your average noble Joe had given up his daily pint of beer for a glass of vin rouge. It needed wine because wine provided vitamins, yeast, and calories to get the English through the long winters. And it needed wine because, well, wine is fun. Given that England was too cold to grow a decent grape, the English required a system of foreign exchange to get their spirits from France. They traded English fleece to Flanders for Flemish cloth (the good stuff at the time), then brought that to southern France to trade for the fruit of the vine. Luckily, the English controlled both Flanders and Gascony (on the west coast of France) at the time. Thus they were able to trade freely, transport safely, and drink to their hearts' content. For these reasons, and a million other feudal details, the French hated the Brits. In 1337, they attacked Flanders to regain control of the mainland, beginning the Hundred Years' War, which really lasted 116 years until 1453, when the Brits were finally expelled from continental Europe and went back to drinking beer, a habit they largely retain to this day.1

What does all that have to do with us, doing business in a high-technology information age? Well, beer is not the only habit that has hung around since the Middle Ages. Back then we were a land-based world, and the people who controlled more high-value land than anyone else ruled. Land is a zero-sum game: The more I have, the less you have; and the more I have, the more powerful I am relative to you. Land meant crops, and land meant rent from serfs -- tradesmen, farmers, and craftspeople -- who created the goods and consumables that drove the economy. There was a one-to-one correlation between the most powerful people and the ones who had the most land. To this day, Queen Elizabeth remains one of the richest people in the United Kingdom based on her family's landholdings.2 In a time of finite resources, feudal nobility learned that to succeed and gain more power, they needed to protect and hoard what they had. They built castles with moats around them to protect their fiefdoms, conquered everything they could, and built their wealth one furlong at a time, habits that served them well for centuries.

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