Comparisons are a source of endless illusion. As long as we appear to be doing better than someone else, we can feel that we must be doing well, so we don't need to change. These illusions can begin when we compare ourselves with our own past performance (rather than simply learning from it) or with the performance of other organizations.
The companies we're comparing ourselves to may all be performing at lower levels than the market requires. They may all be doing it wrong. Since every organization is unique, another company's solutions may not apply to us. Imitating others may take too long or come too late.
This problem is compounded by the fact that we may not even know what those we're comparing ourselves to are really like. We can allude that we know what these other organizations are doing, but we may be basing our opinions on partial, incomplete or erroneous information.
In our volatile world, standards can change faster than our ability to improve against them. If we've grown at an annual rate of 15 percent compared with an industry average of 5 percent, we may be wildly successful--unless a new competitor from an unexpected direction or unrelated industry finds a way to deliver our service at 60 percent of our cost. We may copy something that is successful today but will be obliterated tomorrow.
Comparing can ultimately lead to a disastrous illusion because it's looking at the past (maybe up to the present) rather than to the future. The past and the present can be a useful guideline, but measuring against the future is where true success is found. Comparison can help us try to get a bigger piece of what we perceive to be the pie, but it can't show us how big the pie really could be or where other pies are.