ipadWhen Microsoft’s Silicon Valley R&D center was burgled over the Holidays, the thieves wasted no time hunting for Bill Gates’ next idea, instead all they took were five iPads! How insulting!

Imagine the embarrassment, after going to all the trouble of breaking into your top secret hideout and the thieves choose the competition over you!

Aside from the chuckle these villains provided Apple and the rest of us, this story also got me thinking about how easy it can be to be seduced by your own marketing into thinking you’re the best, despite what the market and customers (and burglars) are telling you. (Unless Apple was behind the break-in!)

Of course we have to believe in the superiority of our own offerings, but we can become blinkered to marketplace realities if we drink too much of our own Kool-Aid. Admittedly, this level of self-deception is more common in larger organizations, but this mentality can spring up anywhere.

If you’re wondering if you’re already showing symptoms, here’s an idea to wake you up to the truth: Be a customer. Shop around the competition and your own company as if you were going to buy. Take note of how the competition markets, transacts and delivers their offerings and then go through the customer experience—from contact for more information to actual fulfillment (if practical, otherwise do it in theory)—with your own organization.

Use or witness your products and services in action. When you encounter a flaw or failed feature, stop and analyze. You can’t allow your unswerving faith in your company blind you to an opportunity to improve. Never stop asking, ‘what’s possible’ rather than ‘what’s required,’ because organizations that rest too long on yesterday’s laurels will have nothing worth stealing tomorrow.