Back in early September, I answered a question about keeping secrets for competitive advantage on the 8 September 2013 episode of Philosophy in Action Radio.
Here’s the question:
Is it wrong to protect my competitive advantage in a sport by refusing to share information? I am an aspiring MMA fighter. I’ve done a lot of work studying personal fitness, how to prevent and fix personal injuries, and how to maximize force output. I recently signed up for an MMA gym to prepare for some amateur fights. I’m concerned that when I do non-conventional “stretches” before or after a workout I’ll get questions from curious people. Then I’m in a dilemma. I would like to make friends, but I really don’t want to give away for free my knowledge that I have worked hard to achieve – knowledge which gives me an edge over many competitors. I don’t want to tell them where I got this information either. Perhaps if they ask what I’m doing, I could say “trade secret” or something else. Ultimately though, I don’t want to give potential competitors the tools that will help them beat me. Is this legitimate? Is it immoral or unwise?
In answering, I was helped by the following comments from amateur fighter Anthony Kluska. I liked them so much that I read them on the air, and I wanted to blog them for y’all too. Anthony wrote:
I am also an amateur fighter training at Daddis fight camps in Philadelphia. I work along with former UFC fighters, current Belator fighter and former WEC fighters. To answer his question simply, yes it is very unwise especially at his novice level. To be blunt he really needs to get over himself. The professional fighters at his gym will be light years ahead of him when it comes to “how to prevent and fix personal injuries, and how to maximize force output.” This is a sense of ignorance a lot of people have before joining these gyms. I know. I had it. Then the during Brazilian Jiu Jitsu class I got smashed by a blue belt half my size and my pretentiousness left it about two seconds. Chances are no one will care about his stretches or his ability to maximize force output. Most MMA gyms foster a sense of team spirit and encourage good training partners. What he really needs to focus on is becoming a good training partner learning everything he can while not being cocky.
Furthermore he should not try to gain a competitive advantage against those in his gym. He won’t be fighting his own teammates during bouts. What he should do is give all his “secrets” away so that he can develop new skills against people competent in his specialties. For instance I am a pressure fighter so I work a lot with guys who know how to pressure me back. This forces me to learn how to stick and move. Now my outside boxing is almost as good and my inside boxing.
Lastly there are no secrets any more in the information age. There are internet videos, MMA forums analysts who publish free seminars books magazines and a plethora of gyms associated with other gyms. There are no “secret martial arts skills”. It’s all in the open for anyone to know. A quick Google search will provide you with so much information it’s unbelievable. The question is, “is he the 3% who will utilize the information or is he just a gym class hero.”
To understand the 3% mentality, watch this video.
Thank you, Anthony! If you’ve not heard that podcast segment, you can listen to or download it here:
- Duration: 15:27
- Download: MP3 Segment
For more details, check out the question’s archive page. The full episode – where I answered questions on the value of a central purpose, self-confidence at work, keeping secrets for competitive advantage, hate crime laws, and more – is available as a podcast too.