It happens at the front line, not at the head office.

In the popular narrative, business competition takes place between companies: Boeing vs. Airbus; General Motors vs. Toyota vs. Volkswagen; Microsoft vs. Amazon vs. Google; Procter & Gamble vs. L’Oréal vs. Unilever vs. Johnson & Johnson; or Coca-Cola vs. PepsiCo. It’s tempting to think of these great companies as colonizing nations engaged in a world war, fighting for territory and position in multiple theaters of combat, and it’s quite likely that many CEOs agree, to judge from the emphasis in the press on a company’s market share.

But it’s not corporations that compete—it’s the products and services they provide. Customers of narrow-body commercial jets think that the B737 ...

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