The Way To Do It

If your strategy is based on your competitor not knowing what you're doing, as opposed to not being able to do what you can do, you cannot be successful in the long run, no matter who knows what.

-- Just Say No to Wall Street by Joseph Fuller et. al.

The sentence itself is mind brightening, and it’s easier said than done. Getting up with something new isn’t easy. Getting up with something new, yet not copy-able by your competitors, is more than difficult. Actually, the easiest way to achieve the latter is a monopoly over resources. For example, if steam engine requires coal to run, and we prevent our rival from getting coal, or limited only to small scale such that it’s enough for personal use but not for sale, one can not seal the information yet have your rival not achieving what you have. What can (s)he do, unless (s)he comes up with an alternative to coal? Yet, the monopoly of resources isn’t easily done, especially if you’re not a conglomerate at scale, like a country, or a transnational company.

Another approach one could think of is in the field of investment. Investors like Warren Buffett shared their approaches online, yet, not everyone could copy them. We might think that’s because we don’t already have the assets he have, but that’s not true. Warren Buffett don’t born rich, does he? One may think, he didn’t share everything, just a summary. That may be true to a certain sense, you couldn’t expect him to share everything, plus he don’t have the obligation to do so. For other people, hiding trade secrets and only sharing summary might be the way to not be copied by others; yet in investment, not really. The largest difference one could see is human nature. People like Ben Graham told us to be discipline, to not react to the market, to invest by company’s value than market value, to be patient; but it’s easier said than done. How many people can resist the temptation to trade? How many can resist not to sell when the market falls, seeing their money fall with their asset? How many can resist not to wonder whether their assets will recover, or forever not (esp. if you didn’t research the company beforehand, it can be true that some never recovers to the price you bought at)? Ultimately, knowing about how to control yourself doesn’t mean you can control yourself. That’s where information, while not useless, doesn’t determine your actions. Similarly in terms of companies. The boss cannot put a decision to work if the board of directors mostly disagree with him/her, even if his/her decision is a copycat of their rivals’ tactics. An organization isn’t determined by a single person’s emotion, but multiple emotions from different directors who have the power to vote, and to convince everyone, or at least most, to make a certain decision, isn’t easier than convincing yourself to be patient, especially when they aren’t your puppet where you can control, unlike you can control yourself.

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