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Stay out front through shock & awe

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in Leaders & Managers,Workplace Communication

One way to hang onto your lead is to maintain the pressure after a surprise attack. Here’s a schoolyard stunt that illustrates the point:

In military school, retired Air Force Maj. Gen. William A. Cohen and five of his classmates devised a prank to shake up unsuspecting fellow students. Cohen and cohorts lined up in a single column, then ran directly at their victim.

Just as he was about to slam into his victim, the leader would veer off, reach out and whack the victim in the back of the head with his cloth cap. Before the victim even realized what was happening, a second attacker was on him, swatting him with a cap. Then, another and another.

It made no difference how big or strong the victim was, Cohen says. In every attack, repeated shocks prevented any kind of defense. Sometimes, the defender even fell down, even though he was slapped with only a piece of fabric.

Cohen grew amazed at the stunning effect the blows produced when delivered one after the other.

In business, he says, the same thing can happen when you introduce anew product or technology. Competitors will usually try to mount a defense.

But if you’re a step ahead of them—if you’ve planned out another five stages of improvements or related products to hit the market in succession, and if they’re actually in the pipeline, ready to go—you’ll send your competitors reeling.

— Adapted from The Art of the Strategist, William A. Cohen, Amacom.

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