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Get Tough

No more Mr. Nice Guy. If you want to stay competitive, you've got to play hardball.

This story appears in the January 2005 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Nice guys finish last, according to George Stalk and Rob Lachenauer. In Hardball: Are You Playing to Play or Playing to Win? (HBS Press, $25), the two consultants describe how to gain and maintain extreme competitive advantage by enticing competitors into retreat, changing fields of play, using shock-and-awe and other "hardball strategies."

One of the most interesting and applicable strategies deals with finding and exploiting anomalies-unusual but persistent phenomena, such as markets where your products sell much better than elsewhere. Don't write these off as coincidences, the authors urge, outlining a systematic way of identifying, analyzing and then coming up with ideas about the strategic opportunities such anomalies may contain. Overall, it's an unusually deep, fine-grained and useful piece of . One caveat: The authors repeatedly urge readers not to break laws against predatory pricing and other anti-competitive practices. You can, it seems, play too hard.

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