If you try to be the biggest, you might end up being the dumbest.


Sorry if that sounds crude.

To illustrate what I mean by the above headline, let me ask you: Do you remember what happened to Toyota and Volkswagen when they tried to become the biggest automakers?

In addition to their stupendous losses in financial goodwill and brand equity, one more thing that was lost in the Toyota vs Volkswagen race is this: A chance to meaningfully advance their field.

It brings me no pleasure to mention the newest entry to the above list of companies that seem hell-bent on being the biggest: Samsung.

By now, you have probably heard that Samsung lost its flagship smartphone, the Galaxy Note 7. (The project losses in purely financial terms are approx. 17 billion dollars.)

I’m sorry about the people whose jobs may be affected by Samsung’s loss.

“What’s the alternative to wanting to be the biggest? In virtually every company that matters, bigger market share is all the company management wants,” you might say.

Is it?

It sure doesn’t look like that’s the DNA of one of the most beloved companies on Earth.

When its founder was attacked for having a small market share in his industry (it was approx. 5-6% at the time), he’d reply by saying, “[name-of-mystery-company]’s market share is bigger than BMW, Mercedes, or Porsche’s share in the automotive market. What’s wrong with being BMW or Mercedes?”

“Founders can be dreamers. Who’s that guy? What’s the name of his company? Have I even heard of it?”

Maybe. The founder’s name was Steve Jobs. His company: Apple.

Steve sadly passed away far too prematurely, but his ideals, thankfully, are still alive and well.

Case in point: At a recent public appearance at the Utah Tech Tour, Apple CEO Tim Cook pointed out that it’s nearly impossible for a company to be the best, to be the first, and to make the most of a given product.

“You should never, ever base success or failure on hitting all three of those, in my view. So as an entrepreneur, I would encourage you to pick one. And then go for it. Whatever it is.”

Tim added, “It doesn’t bother us that we are second, third, fourth or fifth if we still have the best. We don’t feel embarrassed because it took us longer to get it right,” says Cook. “For Apple, being the best is the most important and trumps the other two by far. Our North Star is making the best products that really enrich people’s lives, and if we can’t do those, we pass.”

If you try to be the biggest, you might end up being the dumbest.

If you want to be the best, you might have to start thinking like Apple.

I am not telling you what to do. I am telling you to decide. It is a subtle but important difference.

Oct 12, 2016