When I was in school, I had a classmate who kept comparing the results he got with mine for each and every paper. In a way it felt good (to know that I was a yardstick - Seeing Red Positively) but honestly, it was only a school exam! The actual real test would definitely be the government exams eg. SPM or the O Levels.
Even if he 'won' or got higher results than me in the school exams wouldn't mean much actually as the deciding factor would be how we performed in the big end exam. Anyway, this is my belief, and I've applied it in my works as well till today - that beating the competition is good, but we shouldn't be contented to just stay ahead that way.
Take a look in the global business world. When Google came out with their search engine, did they really wanted to just beat Yahoo? Maybe initially because their reason Yahoo's didn't provide the best search results. But later on, their aim was more of providing a service in all areas for internet users globally - a reliable and good search engine and now much more areas too. So, rather than just being one step ahead of Yahoo, they have emerged as a internet giant today, and far more ahead of rivals Yahoo.
Another example - take Facebook vs. MySpace vs. Friendster. Friendster was one of the pioneers in the industry of social networking. However today, in most places of the world and especially in important market USA, MySpace rule much bigger than Friendster despite coming into the market later. Again, I'm sure they had an ambition to be good (or great) and hence they introduced quite a fair bit of things to their sites and are highly successful with the artistes pages.
Then along came Facebook and did they point blank want to only beat MySpace? Yes, maybe. But, the things they introduced is clearly on their own goal and mission of again providing something useful and clearly meets the more sophisticated internet users. They maybe rivals to MySpace, but no more direct head to head rivals, but rather with their own mission and aim.
All these examples show that companies who want to be big (and to one large extend, no. 1), they look way beyond just what their rivals are doing. Instead, they look at a longer term vision and goal - their very own vision and goals not their rivals'.
Coming back to Malaysia and Singapore, if Malaysia is to succeed, we need to know what Singapore is doing, but more than that, we need to have a stronger vision ourselves and to know where want to head to.
We need to know what we've done and succeeded, and what more we need to do. Malaysia is a unique country by itself with huge resources and wonderful mix of people. We should use that to our advantage.
Whilst Singapore has successfully combined the East meets West, Malaysia may want to focus on being truly Asia - where we are the centre of the Middle East countries, India and China. That is what makes Malaysia unique and we should make full use of it. We have strong culture and talented people - what we need now is positioning ourselves. (In fact, I realise Singapore is doing this now as well in a way with their foray into Islamic banking too).
Anyway, getting back - let Singapore be the roundest, their port being one of the busiest ports in the world despite the ships ploying the same route and their world class Singapore Airlines. Let's give them credit for these achievements of theirs. They obviously did some things right.
And for Malaysia, let's look ahead and hope to achieve our wins in our own ways. For the record and pat on the back, Malaysia Airlines won award for best hospitality - we may not win direct competition, but we are winning in other forms :)
*Also, for the record, my friend lost in most papers and of course in the end results as well. He really should have focused on the end results only :)
Also read: Being No. 1