Keeping The Competitive Edge

Photo: Brenna

We’re taking a bike tour through the Everglades, and the guide mentioned one of the airboat “captains,” who did something seemingly irrational. He owned a tiny island in the ‘Glades, on which he had situated some feral pigs that he showed to tourists on his boat tour. His “problem” was that he didn’t own the water around the island, and his many competitors also showed off the pigs to their customers. He got angry and turned the pigs into ham and bacon (which he presumably consumed). He is a very weird guy, so looking for rationality on his part may be silly-although spite is a perfectly reasonable, but not pretty basis for behavior. But his behavior might be considered dollar-maximizing without making any assumptions about interpersonal comparisons. It could well be that the value of the ham and bacon to him and any competitive advantage that he might gain now that his competitors can’t show off the pigs justify his actions.


Both the captain and his competitors still can go by the island and tell the story about the feral pigs. The value of the "product" (a tour and local lore) are still pretty much the same for all.

Eric M. Jones

Just paint his own advertisement on the side of the pigs. "Joe's Airboat Tours 123-555-1234. That would do the job.


Maybe it's just me, but I can't understand why people (or even tourists!) would pay to see feral pigs.


There are similar problems just N of Myrtle Beach, SC, where a company advertises shrimp boat tours. They run a very small beat up boat that dredges in an area that would never be commercially viable. They use a big fishing boat to take tourists out to watch this small boat 'work'.

Since they don't own the water around the boat and can't exclude others from approaching, other tours (small boats, jet skis, etc..) take advantage and use the small boat as part of their own tours.

The crew on the big fishing boat screams obscenities at the interlopers and the tourists they bring with them. It's quite off-putting to the tourists on all of the boats, who don't know the story and have no idea why the hostility exists.


Notice that he now has more publicity over this action than he ever had with the actual pigs. Sounds like a productive thing to do after all.

Frank Vasquez

I find it amusing that anyone would try to shoe-horn this rather unremarkable human behavior into a model of rational behavior. It just illustrates that the assumption and the model are not very useful outside theoretical constructs.


Well, if he owns the island, why not put something else it...maybe something that you have to actually get off the boat to see? That way if others want to see it, they either would have to go with the owner's tours...or perhaps pay a "licensing" fee.

Of course when you say "island," in the Everglades that might mean a 50 by 50 foot piece of barren land sitting just above the water.

Ian Kemmish

Most pigs end up as ham and bacon sooner or later. Sooner, if it's a small island and they haven't been neutered. Your assumption of causality between anger and charcuterie may not be entirely justified. Or the anger may have influenced the timing but not the nature of their demise.


lol too funny, talk about "eating the competitive edge." Oh well the tour moves on right along with the hearty ham breakfast.


" It could well be that the value of the ham and bacon to him and any competitive advantage that he might gain now that his competitors can't show off the pigs justify his actions"

The value of the ham might have been higher then a non-existant competitive advantage, but it the wrong metric to measure the rationality of his actions.

What was the value of the attraction to his business, compared to the value of the pork? There is a good chance he is making less money now he has less to exhibit, and so is poorer for his decision.


Here is the similar story

What distinguishes you from your competitors? Every good business looks for ways in which to gain a competitive edge. In today's world, information is disseminated instantaneously and technology advances at break-neck speeds making it difficult to obtain and maintain an advantage in your industry. Understanding and strategically protecting and exploiting your intellectual property can be very important to obtaining and maintaining a competitive edge. Every business should have a strategy for assessing and protecting its intellectual property. The following are some general guidelines for creating a strategic plan that suits your business.


That actually is a very smart idea. If it can't be solely yours, destroy it. Phil @ Phil's Stock World is all about the competitive edge.


He should restock it and then offer feral-pig bacon from his private stock if you take his tour.