Many of you may be familiar with the first part of this week’s fortune. I know I heard it used when I was a kid. “The early bird gets the worm,” was the advice that I got when it was time for bed, and there was a lot of work planned for the next day. My excuse was that I didn’t want any worms—it never worked.
The second part is much more of a pithy retort, but unfortunately, I didn’t know it as a child. I’m sure if I had, and used it, I would have received harsh punishments. So, in this case, ignorance is bliss.
Now that I am all grown up—although still short—I find this fortune to be very influential. This especially holds true for those in the business field. We need to decide if we want to be the pioneers or the planners. We need to know when to lead and when to follow.
The early bird will benefit from having few competitors, innovating motivation, and a lead before competitors do move in. On the downside, novelty can be hard to sell, it can be expensive, customers resist change, you do all of the hard work, and if you don’t plan right, the whole thing could flop.
For the pioneer, “You’re the plow that opens new ground.” You create all of the conditions that the others will follow in, and possibly succeed far above you. That may be a tough pill to swallow. Being the leader can be hard, and not everyone is up for the task.
The mouse on the other hand has a completely different strategy. As an early adapter, you can follow in the leader’s wake, “The back end of the plow gets the least wear.” You can also define niches that the leader didn’t consider. On top of that, the time and money you save from innovation you can use towards marketing.
Now, mon petite souris, “my little mouse,” it’s not all brie and crackers. The leader in the market, is just that—the leader. If you’re not the lead dog, the view is always the same. The leader will most likely have the backing of very influential parties. They will also probably have the copyrights, patents and trademarks, which will be a great hurdle to overcome.
The adapter will also validate the leader’s original idea. By following the leader, you show that the idea was a good one, and in turn help the first company out. Oops! That’s probably not what you wanted, but c’est la vie.
Right now, my younger readers are probably wondering what the heck this has to do with them. They are still in school and many won’t seek a life in the business field. Well, knowing when to lead and when to follow can be important in school as well.
Imagine you are sitting in class after finishing a writing assignment or project, and the teacher asks a volunteer to show off their work. In many cases, it benefits you to be the first person with your hand in in the air, maybe not as enthusiastically as Donkey, from the movie Shrek (2001, DreamWorks), but with some confidence.
If you are first, you set the bar for the rest of the students. The teacher will likely compare the other works to yours. This can really work to your advantage, even if your work isn’t the best. Teachers have a tendency to look kindly on the first victim—I mean volunteer. They consider your initiative.
You also have the advantage of getting the hard part over with, exposing your work. When you are done, you can blow a sigh of relief while you sit back and watch the other students squirm.
Of course, there are times when the demonstration of works can take a couple of days, and others will see what you’ve done and tweak their own work to make theirs better, bird vs mouse.
So, how do you know which to be? If you are interested in flying like a bird, take some time to plan things out, and don’t forget to think outside the box. If you want to squeak by and be the mouse, invest some time in making sure you stand out from the rest.
No matter which direction you choose, pioneer or planner, bird or mouse, work hard and do your best. You don’t want to fall prey to that fat, lazy cat.