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Book Summary – OutThink the Competition: How a New Generation of Strategists see Options Others Ignore

Outthink The Competition - Book summary

In today’s fast-changing business landscape, old business models are being disrupted and new market niches and leaders are emerging rapidly in their place. “Outhink the Competition” is a thorough handbook by Kaihan Krippendorff on how to outmaneuver and disorient your competition, so you can stay ahead of the competition without having to out-muscle or outspend them. In this summary, we’ll give a synopsis of the key ideas in the book, including how to:
• Identify the pattern behind competitive revolutions and to create your own revolution;
• Develop your “Outthinker’s Playbook”; and
• Apply the 5 Outthinker Habits and 5 Outthinker Processes, to systematically identify strategic options that competitors miss, and re-engineer your organization to become truly competitive amidst constant change and disruptions.

Outthink The Competition summary - book summary bundle

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The Pattern behind Revolutions

In all domains of competition – from business to sports to war – radical changes and breakthroughs follow a similar pattern. By understanding and recognizing this pattern, you can outthink your competition and create your own revolution:

Outthink the Competition summary_revolutions-patterns

In the book, Krippendorff also outlines 9 important global trends that are shaping our world, such as the acceleration of business and competitive cycles, dis-aggregation, self-organization of citizens and customers etc. (you can get a summary of these 9 trends in our full 16-page summary). These are critical developments which any successful company must watch and leverage.


The Outthinker’s Playbook

A “playbook” is a term commonly used in sports to describe a collection of tested strategies that are known to work. Most businesses also have the own playbooks, even if they are unconscious ones. The rules are changing and you need a new playbook to succeed. Krippendorff zooms into 5 playbook strategies in detail.

Outthink the Competition summary_playbook-strategies

Create Something out of Nothing

Rather than play with existing players and pieces on the board (the traditional approach), create new playbook strategies by creating and removing pieces and players.

Force Two-Front Battles

Rather than compete as specialists in your industry (single-front battle), consider how you can leverage expertise across different industry boundaries (two-front battles).

Be Good and Do Good

Corporation’ priorities are not just their shareholders – they are better off serving all stakeholders (including shareholders, customers, employees, community, environment etc.)

Coordinate the Uncoordinated

Rather than own and keep things within your organization, create power by coordinate things (directly or indirectly, outside your organization).

Move early to the next battle

Don’t try to win your battles sequentially. To stay a winner tomorrow, you need to concurrently move to tomorrow’s battleground, while managing your transitions today.

Here’s an example of one of the strategies in more detail. Read more about all 5 strategies from the book or complete summary:Outthink the Competition summary_coordinate-the-uncoordinated

New opportunities can be unlocked by coordinating the uncoordinated, both within and outside our organizations.To improve your coordination ability, use these 4 ingredients:

Speed – spread information instantaneously with technology.

Syndication – syndicate information more broadly to reach people who agree and support you.

Integrity – minimize communication errors which can occur each time a message is transmitted.

Transparency – narrow the gap between early adopters and early majority by encouraging views being shared openly and quickly.


These are just 5 out of the 36 potential strategies highlighted in the book. To start creating your own playbook and outthinking your competitors, you’ll need to understand the 5 outthinker habits and processes.

Outthinking the Competition

Outthinkers see the world differently, and have 5 habits that lead them to see and actualize unorthodox solutions to society’s problems.

Apply these habits and processes to create new strategic options and a game-plan with strategic clarity.

Habit 1 – Mental Time Travel

Outthink the Competition summary_mental time travelOutthinkers visualize the future across multiple planes, so they can work backwards and make more enlightened choices today. Imagine your future across 3 “planes”:

(i) You and your organization: Imagine what you want (including your mission and vision)

(ii) Relevant environment: Imagine what your environment could look like (the “atmosphere” needed to support your vision)

(iii) The other players: Imagine what your other players (e.g. competitors, suppliers, regulators, distributors) will be doing

(iv) Paint the details of the future image, imprint it firmly in your mind and put it on paper. Then, focus your efforts on what must be changed today to create the desired future.

Habits 2-5

Here’s an overview of the remaining 4 habits. Get more mojo and details from the book or our full book summary:

Outthink the Competition summary_habits-2-4

• Attack the interconnected system.

• Frame-shifting.

• Disruptive mind-set.

• Shaping Perception.


Use this  5-step process to start your outthinking process, rapidly generate unconventional strategic options and create a context for innovative strategic thinking.  You can apply this individually or in a group, with the ultimate goal of building it into your organization’s default way of thinking.

Step 1 – Imagine

The task here is to get a firm vision in mind. Envision a new future that’s inconsistent with current reality, yet not bound by our past knowledge/ memories. To help us break out of our own myopia, it’s useful to do this exercise with a team and without distractions.

Outthink the Competition summary_imagine

Focus your discussion and mental time-travel on the 3 planes of (i) you and your organization (ii) relevant environment and (iii) other players using these 3 steps:

(i) Define the mess or the discontent with the current trajectory. What is the realistic (but undesirable) future if we do not find an alternative solution?

(ii) Define the long-term ideal, including (a) defining “long term” (usually 3-5 years), (b) imagining the long-term ideal using the 3 planes and (c) defining up to 3 key metrics that captures you long term ideal (e.g. market share, revenue, employee engagement, time with family etc.)

(iii) Define the near-term ideal, including (a) defining “near term” (usually 6 months – 3years), (b) asking “what must be true in the near term for us to know we will realize our long-term ideal?” and (c) defining key metrics to capture near-term ideal.

From (i)-(iii), state your strategic question to help you achieve your near-term ideal.  E.g.  “In 12 months, how do we….”

Digest, apply and review ideas from this book easily with our audio, text and graphic summaries.

Steps 2-5

Here’s an overview of the remaining 4 steps. For more details, do get a copy of the the book or our book summary:Outthink the Competition summary_process-2-4

Dissect the challenge into its component parts. The book explains how to build a system map that lays out the causes and effects, variables and interdependencies, so you can see how changes in 1 part of the system affect others.

Expand – Now that you have your key issues to address, you’re ready to brainstorm as many unconventional strategic options as possible, using different “frames” or stratagems to challenge yourself.
• Analyze – Narrow down your list to the ideas that you want to validate and execute. The book lays out the steps involved in this process.
• Sell – You ideas are only valuable if they are adopted.  Develop your stakeholder map to get stakeholder buy-in using the power-influence matrix and the GAME process.

Rebuilding the Organization from Within

In order to constantly outthink the competition, you must fundamentally change the way your organization approaches strategic challenges, and this involves 3 sequential challenges:

Outthink the Competition summary_re-engineer

Other Useful Details in “Outthink the Competition”

The book is rich in examples and short case studies in sports, warfare, and business, to bring the various ideas to life. Some businesses covered include: Rosetta Stone, Vistaprint, inVentiv Health, Autodesk, Blue Nile, EyeBuyDirect, QuEST Global, College Hunks Hauling Junk, Valley Forge Fabrics, Best Doctors, Aflac etc.

Krippendorff also summarizes his research and observations into tables and appendixes including:

• 14 reasons why incumbents don’t respond in time to new innovations (based on an analysis of about 100 companies over 10 years)
• Examples of “winning moves” across the 8Ps of marketing
• Research methodology and background (Appendix A)
36 Stratagems, built from centuries of Asian strategic thinking (Appendix B)
• Tools and worksheets to apply the Outthinker process (Appendix C).
• For more resource and updates, please visit their official website:

Loved this article? Get a copy of the book from now, or check out our full Outthink the Competition summary bundle!

Read more about how to tailor warfare strategies for modern day business with Sun Tzu’s Art of War for Managers here.

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