Sumo matches are often over in seconds. The objective is to force your opponent out of the dohyo, an elevated ring. There are no weight classes and no second chances. Top division Sumo wrestlers can weigh anywhere from 300 to a staggering 600 pounds.
How, then, can the smaller wrestlers hope to prevail? Yes, skill, flexibility and strength all help, but if you face an opponent twice your weight, what hope do you have?
The gentle way
The word Judo can be translated as “the gentle way”, favouring an indirect application of force, relying on the opponent’s strength and using it against him. A classic judo move is sidestepping an opponent, allowing his momentum to throw him forwards.
Doing this in a Sumo match is called a henka, and many consider it unsporting. Others are more in favour, arguing that it gives the smaller contestants a fighting chance. Absent the sidestep move (or the chance that it will be deployed in surprise), only the largest contestants would be victorious.
Henka your competition
Today’s giant companies started off as challengers, taking on entrenched and vast incumbents – and they didn’t fight fair. They didn’t go toe-to-toe with their competition. They sidestepped.
Netflix vs Blockbuster
Netflix was conceived to be a streaming service, even before the technology – the storage, distribution and playback of video – had matured to support it. In the meantime, instead of competing head on with Blockbuster, they developed a membership model where customers could receive and return DVD rentals by mail.
While not as convenient as the online service that Netflix is today, this model nevertheless demonstrated the value of a membership (recurring revenues), no retail locations (cost reduction) and never charging late fees (happy customers), leveraging these advantages to overshadow and eventually eclipse Blockbuster.
Tesla vs incumbent car companies
Incumbent car companies are understandably reluctant to make a sudden switch to electric transportation. They currently make their money selling conventional internal combustion engine cars. These cars and their costly maintenance requirements justify vast dealer networks.
If you are going to start a car company, you need a henka move. Tesla’s is to bet all its resources on an electric future. If Tesla is right, the large automobile companies they compete with may collapse under the weight of their investments in older technologies and practices.
Facebook vs MySpace
MySpace was reportedly hamstrung by NewCorp’s bureaucracy and profit first mentality. Facebook’s henka move – one used by many new economy companies including Uber and Amazon – was to forgo profit in favour of rapid scale.
Facebook faces scads of criticism these days, but the company’s strategy is consistent – make the experience for its users engaging (if not emotionally healthy or edifying).
Part of this effort is keeping a lid on the quantity and aggressiveness of advertising on the site. This often means creating advertising policies that are at odds with advertisers’ wishes. No matter – in terms of scale and customer data, Facebook is so dominant that advertisers paid the company $55 billion in 2019.
Gusjer [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]