In Asian philosophy, there is the concept of “yin and yang” – that polar opposites or seemingly contrary forces are interconnected and interdependent. The curves and circles of the Yin-Yang symbol imply a movement in which Yin and Yang are mutually-arising, interdependent, and continuously transforming, one into the other. One could not exist without the other, for each contains the essence of the other. Night becomes day, and day becomes night. Friends become enemies, and enemies become friends.
The smaller circles nested within each half of the symbol serve as a constant reminder of the interdependent nature of the black/white "opposites". It reminds us that all of relative existence is in constant flux and change. It means that each side always contains the other, as night contains day or as evil (at least a little evil thought) lurks even in the nicest people.
What does Yin and Yang have to do with competitive analysis? Everything.
Always remember that you can’t have everything in an organization or product. Features usually require some design compromise, especially when dealing with set architectures, platforms, and code. Newer products based on older product architecture most likely still carry the "old baggage" internally. Remember physics where every action had an equal and opposite reaction? Or the advice that you can't burn both ends of the candle? Every seeming advantage may have some hidden disadvantage. A plethora of features can compromise ease of use and add complexity (at least the perception). A program acquiring data at high speeds means heavy CPU processing, large data buffers, and perhaps even more data than you want. A more powerful machine, e.g. air conditioner, may mean incompatibility with standard 110V household outlets. A car with a bigger engine may sacrifice mileage. A lighter weight car may sacrifice safety or stability. A large organization may have bureaucracy and slow reaction to change. A small company offering low cost products due to low overhead may not offer critical and timely technical support. Fast delivery and availability may mean high inventory and related costs for a company.
I like to challenge our engineers, programmers, and myself to review competitive products/services and explain the possible compromises of each feature or design, especially by asking “why didn’t we do that?” or “what would we give up if we did that?”
Yin and Yang analysis may lead to the guerilla marketing strategy of “flanking” – where you do not attack the competitor directly from their position of strength. A Yin and Yang analysis in the fast food burger world shows that McDonald’s strengths in operational efficiency, speed, and consistency arguably compromises taste and individual customer requests. Burger King thus advertised that their hamburgers are flame broiled, not fried and ran a "Have It Your Way" campaign. McDonald’s operations simply does not allow such options.