2nd is the new 1st !!

For quite a long time I wanted to revive this topic that actually encouraged me to start blogging in 2009. This was my first blog but unfortunately I could not publish it in public as, till today, I was fighting hard to get the answer to this. Does it really the ‘winner’ that always matters? As we don’t remember, or rather won’t like to remember, the 2nd astronaut to walk in space, the 2nd man who conquered the Mount Everest, the 2nd person who crossed the English Channel etc etc. Once achieved! It’s really not worth giving them another try as that would only reinforce the former achievements. Nothing new!

But alas! The business scenario today is not as straight forward as these achievements were. It is not a zero sum game. The motive is simple: “To make money – now and in future”. And mind it! It’s NOT to be no.1 – now and in future!! We have seen the fate of No.1 industries like Lehman Brother, General Motors, Merrill Lynch and many others in this crisis. The financial turmoil has exposed lot of hidden weaknesses about the top companies of the world. This has really questioned the idea of ‘being No. 1 in the industry’ as the vision of any company. Joe Kraus (founder of Excite) beautifully defines this as “Sometimes being early is same as being wrong!

By the way how many of us know about ‘Excite’ search engine? May be few! (I didn’t until recently). And how many of us know Google? Probably a stupid question to ask. Excite is the first search engine developed way back in 1994 which is at verge of extinction today. Because of whom? Google! Who was of course not the first in search engine technology!
Mc Donald: Concept founded by McDonald brothers in 1940, proud founders of ‘Speedee Service System’ and ‘fast’ food restaurant. The two brothers got so satisfied with their outlet in California that they did not even realize the potential of their business. As a result, Ray Kroc came and extended it with a franchise system in 1955. The rest is history - You may not find a person to guide you the way to a street in some unknown corner of the world, but you would definitely find a Mc Donald franchisee there! 
Chinese, in fact, are the perfect followers of this strategy of staying 2nd by way of ‘imitation’ as their competency. Let the world make huge expenses on innovation and learning, in other words: mistakes, and they are ready with their ‘copy cats’ to leverage on those innovations through reverse engineering while simply following them! The complete shift of paradigm  indeed!

You must be wondering why I am indirectly blaming “being first” as a foremost reason for failure at later stage. Of course it is not destined to fail by being 1st! But the fact is that the business has become so dynamic over the years that the feeling of being no.1 at times makes the organization so content and proud in their working style that they forget that  someone somewhere will change the rules of the game someday and boy ‘o’ boy, then you had it! Flexibility becomes the only rigid thing in such companies.

In such dynamic and competitive environment today, one cannot afford to make mistakes by its own. Your rivals will thrash you like anything by leveraging on YOUR mistakes more than they would have leveraged even on their own strategies! The new rational today is to learn from other’s mistakes and then play a refined move quickly and strategically. And this becomes the tradeoff between being no.1 (indirectly in mistakes) and staying no.2 to learn swiftly out of your competitor while letting him enjoy the fake proud of being No.1.
2nd is the new 1st indeed!!



  1. Nice thought Gaurav!!!
    I also believe that in the rat race of being no.1 , the companies who goes by their pace and keep itself apart from this is the winner in the end. As you said the motive is simple: “To make money – now and in future” :)

  2. Thanks Nishant!
    But again the irony of the fact is that we can never draw a line between need and greed! So you never know "how much is too much" in a real business scenario.

  3. Hey gaurav another good blog from you......but i think the comparison that you made was wrong. You are comparing the person who came first in a race to the business. Race is something that is a one round game but business is something that is a continuous game, in which being first does not matter but what matters is the ability to bring something new to the table every time.

  4. That's what my point is Apurva. The zeal to bring something new actually means you want to be first in something. And for that you have to incur lot of resources. The idea of being 2nd is not about being in-competitive but to be agile and a quick learner from other's mistakes. That is the only way today to keep your financials green.

  5. An appropriate & deep thought,welldone keep it up