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6 Ways Supersmart People Succeed

Facing tough competition? Supersmart people know how to gain advantage. Here are their secrets.
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So much of business is competitive. Your market competitors are not the only people you will go up against to be successful. Sometimes your colleagues, employees, and partners will compete with you daily for power, ideas, and methodology.

In most cases, you can't win with just brute force or resources. You have to outsmart the competition. You need to carefully consider competitors' approach and figure out how to win the battles of ideas and acceptance, and ultimately of execution. It's not always easy or comfortable, but great rewards rarely come to those who sit back and take no risk.

Here are six ways your supersmart competitors are working to gain advantage over you. See if you can rise above their level and defeat them.

1. They do their homework. I am constantly amazed at how many companies and people take on projects and endeavors with little research or testing. No one wants to end up with analysis paralysis, but these days, basic research requires very little time and effort. Supersmart people will spend a reasonable amount of time on the Internet or talking to the right people before formulating and advocating theories. In any given conflict, having facts and data can easily sway those on the fence and shorten an argument. A single hour of research can create provide a tenfold return in terms of efficiency and productivity.

2. They keep their ego in check. A healthy ego is certainly important to be a strong leader, but it should not be engaged at the expense of great ideas or respect from your opponents. So often I see people wrapped up in the idea of being right rather than successful. Supersmart people know there is little glory in winning the battle of ideas, only to fail because it was a poor idea. They always look for others who bring smart ideas and plans to the table and happily defer so they can learn and become smarter. That being said, they rarely give way to people who just spout ideas without practicing the previous idea. (See No.1).

3.  They reduce guessing. Speculation has its place in business and is often necessary, but as a primary form of execution, it will lead to failure more often than success. There are relatively safe ways to test almost any theory in short order.

Supersmart people will take a little extra time and effort to do as Jim Collins suggests and "fire bullets before cannonballs" so odds of success are greatly increased and resources are reserved.

4. They team up with other supersmart people. There is definite strength in numbers when competing for market share or even just a simple idea. Supersmart people know there is little glory in failing alone when you could have won together. That's why they build a network of other supersmart people whom they can consult and partner with for greater success. Having those resources at your fingertips can give you extra advantage over someone who has to find smart people just to get started.

5. They find the shortest distance from A to B. Time and effort are almost always major factors when competing. Even when you are just battling over ideas, too much time spent going around without getting to the point will result in lost audience and supporters. Supersmart people pride themselves on efficiency. They consistently look to find ways they can get their point across or make something happen better and faster even if the method wasn't their own idea. (See No. 2.)

6. They constantly gauge when to shift or quit. Once a path is set, people need to commit, but never to the point of going off a cliff. Blind momentum can sometimes be more dangerous in competition than just standing still. 

Supersmart people believe in constant measurement, because they know that even with the best research and planning, there are always variables that can change the situational dynamic. They work in a constant state of feedback and adjustment so they can create success no matter what fate sends their way. And as soon as total inevitable failure is on the horizon, supersmart people are the first to take responsibility and put on the brakes, even at great personal cost. That is because they know they can always work toward a smarter solution.

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Last updated: May 16, 2014

KEVIN DAUM | Columnist

An Inc. 500 entrepreneur with a more than $1 billion sales and marketing track record, Kevin Daum is the best-selling author of Video Marketing for Dummies and the executive producer of Amilya! on 77WABC New York. Sign up here and never miss out on Kevin's thoughts and humor.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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