Look forward don’t look back.
I’ve worked with some amazing organisations over the years and the ones that have made the largest impression, that build and create products people use and love have a single minded focus.
The one’s that struggle, or are long ago gone out of business focus too much on their competitors. What their competitors are doing, what features they have, feature parity, expert reviews of competitors, knee jerk reactions when competitors do something new, somehow thinking that the competitor has some kind of secret sauce that need to emulate.
They have corporate strategies stating they want to be the number one, the best, the leader or some other comparative or superlative. Framing their strategy, their culture, often everything they do in terms of their competitors.
Sometimes you know your competitors are also doing great user research on the same audience though? Sure, don't obsess / blindly copy, but there's plenty of value in staying in tune with competitors IMO - also so you can make sure your experience feels distinctive vs theirs.— J👁EL (@joelstein) February 7, 2020
Even so, you will still be following what they do. Never leading, never innovating.
Keeping an eye on competition is an important thing to do but it’s not the most important thing to do.
Contrast that with companies producing products people love. Have a single minded focus on doing things because their customers need it (not want it that’s a different thing). They look at people’s lives, their work, their environment and design products that have a true need, even if that need hasn’t yet been met.
When we are planning we focus on the problem space. It’s not the time to obsess about the competition.Sarvesh Govindappa, Booking.com / Rentalcars.com
True leadership, true innovation comes from looking at users and their needs not from looking behind you or looking at the leader in the space and thinking what are they doing well? But looking a users and asking ‘What do our users need that are competitors aren’t doing?’ You can’t to that by emulation, you must look at the source, your user and their needs.
I use the fantastic Jobs to be Done framework to identify user needs and understand how your product differentiates from theirs.