I know of a top of the range Tesla electric sports car which completely disappeared.
After being sold, it never connected to a charging point, never got insured or taxed, and its onboard computer lost contact with Tesla's servers for good.
But I know where it went.
Within days of being sold it was spread out in its separate component parts on the warehouse floor of a competing automotive company.
Each part was individually measured, weighed, analysed and photographed. The competitor worked out what materials were used. How much they cost. How they affected manufacturing, assembly, vehicle efficiency, maintenance, and more.
I got to see some of the photos of this particular teardown, and it was all catalogued in immense detail.
Individual photos and datasheets for each moulding, each cable, each screw.
This is apparently normal in the automative industry. Each company goes out to get the competitors' new leading edge cars and does a teardown to learn about innovations, cost savings, quality improvements and more.
In agencies, we have an unfortunate tendency to treat our professional discipline more like a religion.
If we are to truly believe in our own work, we feel, we must cast competing agencies with different approaches as ignorant heathens.
"We are the only true branding/PR/marketing/digital agency! Whatever the others do is a mere mockery of our profession! They won that pitch? Oh they'll only mess it up with their last-century approach!"
But you can learn so much from competitors, if you can get past this insecure reaction to a position of confidence and curiosity. If you can allow yourself and your team to respect or even admire the competition.
As the boss, you can lead on this. Show that it's okay to admire other agencies, study them and learn from them — and that it's not okay to dismiss or mock what others do.
You could even have workshop sessions that are like the 'case studies' at business schools. Reviewing work you respect that a competitor did to discuss with your team what was good about it and what you can all learn.
Learning from observing others is a really useful way to develop the knowledge in your agency.