During strategy lectures you’ll often hear the term “first mover advantage”, which refers to a company being the first one to enter a market and carving out a dominant position for itself. This does exist, although examples are more rare than you think. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that Yahoo and AltaVista were the number one search engines before Google showed up with a better algorithm and consigned them both to the rubbish bin.
While there can be advantages of going first, there are also drawbacks. The reason almost every modern underground system is better than London’s is because London went first and built tunnels that were too small and stations that were too curved. They had no idea in the 1860s that this thing they were building would become the main method of shuttling millions of people around major cities; had they done so they may have planned it better. By the time Moscow (1930s), Paris (1900s), Tokyo (1920s), and New York (1900s) came to build theirs, valuable lessons had already been learned. Alas, it was too late for London whose underground is still hobbled by design decisions made with no experience to draw on. No doubt there are other examples of pioneers helpfully making mistakes their rivals won’t have to, and readers are welcome to share them in the comments given I’m too lazy to think of them right now.
Anyway, a tweet by Lord Ashcroft reminds me of the benefits those who come later can draw from those who went first:
Other EU countries if they want to exit the EU should be encouraged by the U.K. shenanigans. The lesson learned is you first plan for no deal then invoke article 50 telling the EU you’re leaving but willing to discuss anything mutually advantageous…you’ll get the right deal…
— Lord Ashcroft (@LordAshcroft) March 15, 2019
It’s not inconceivable that a second EU member state will look to leave in the next ten years. One would hope that, unlike ours, their political classes are at least on board with it and actually want to leave but it is likely to be as divisive as Brexit has been for the UK. The lesson future leavers will draw from the Brexit experience is to prepare for a No Deal well in advance of invoking Article 50, as there will be no guarantee the EU will agree to anything which can be sold to the public. The EU has made it plain they want to make leaving as painful as possible for Britain pour encourager les autres. What in fact they’ve done is give any would-be leavers a good look at their strategy, and allow Brexit to become a training manual on what not to do. As a minimum, I expect the next country to leave will put in place robust rules regarding former ministers and non-government politicians meeting with EU negotiators outside the formal process. They may wish to include a set of gallows to accompany that.