Winning by not winning


Yup! It is a plastic flower, googly eyes and a pipe cleaner. I guess it isn’t a winner. =)

Today, I got a response for my first tender that I have submitted. I didn’t win the deal, but I ended up winning by not winning. 


There are people who like to compete against others and have a very strong passion to win in order to beat the competition. I am very much not like that. I have several times witnessed how a passion to win against competitors can be detrimental to the culture of an organization.

Why is that? Isn’t it always good to win and beat the competitors?

I tend to frame it like this:  If you make your priority to beat your competitors, then you have already lost by giving them more focus than the group that you with every fiber of your organization should make delighted, that is your customers and the users of your products or services.

I believe that beating your competitors should be a consequence of your awesomeness bringing value to others, never the goal. If you want you can observe how your competitors go about it and instead trying to do it in new ways to get strategic leverage, I still wouldn’t really call it competing. I guess that I would call it basic strategy and an urge to find new ways. But the key thing is still to focus on the customer.

Am I being naïve? Maybe.
Am I being idealistic? Absolutely.
Am I being honest? To the core.

Who is the real enemy?

The martial art that I practice (Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu) doesn’t have any competitions (for a number of reasons). This is one of the reasons why I practice the Bujinkan. There is always an opponent, but the toughest opponent is yourself. It might be your own ego, lack of discipline, lack of motivation, sloth, lack of flexibility, mental fixedness, but the opponent is there. Martial arts to me is striving to develop yourself…philosophically, empathetically, physically and mentally.

When you focus on your own ability and develop that instead of focusing on competitors, it will automatically come with a feeling of accountability. It wasn’t the opponent that was better…I had not practiced enough. Or in a business context: It wasn’t my competitor that offered a better price or offering…I could not match the customer’s need with my offering.

It might be worth mentioning that I do respect martial arts and martial artists that compete. I do believe that it brings a very important aspect into the development in the martial way: humbleness.

Different people have different approaches to life. My perspective is always long term and with a win/win approach. If I would find myself in a situation where that mindset is not an option, in that case I would bring in someone that loves to compete against others. So far, I’ve had the luck of not having to experience so many of those situations.

Competing by not competing

So, back to the tender. In business and in life you might find yourself in something that looks like a competition. For example when you submit a tender to a request for proposal or something similar. Even if the deal will have a winner, I still don’t look at it as a competition.

In the first tender that I’ve ever submitted in the history of Unicornsulting, I was rated as the runner up. The evaluation took different aspects into consideration such as cost, understanding of the assignment and competence. The evaluation rated me highest on competence and network of all submitters. I feel honoured, humbled and kick-ass happy about that. Unicornsulting will never be about delivering the cheapest service, but to provide the best competence and experience. One should never say never, but in this case I did anyway. As a very wise man just told me: “Anyone can be cheapest, but it is difficult to be the best”. Hmmm…maybe I need to compete just for a good dose of humbleness.

So, being runner-up and labeled with the highest competence for the assignment feels nothing short of awesome. The experience of going through the process of submitting a tender made me learn new things and the great power of a deadline pushed me forward. I’m looking forward to the next opportunity to submit a tender.


Three things that I am grateful for:

  1. If losing a deal feels this good, then I can’t wait to actually be selected for an assignment based on a tender.
  2. The organization that requested tenders told me that I managed to trigger their curiosity and that they found the high level of competence and experience in design processes that I brought to the table very interesting. This opened up the possibility for other future assignments instead.
  3. A great meeting with an interesting organization today that might lead to something very exciting.


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