Look at the TV programs we watch. Some of the most popular shows (and show genre) are from Europe or the Middle East. The Office, Bachelor, American Idol, Biggest Loser, Amazing Race, Survivor, Dancing with the Stars - all imports. Reality TV? Came from Europe as a cheaper alternative to writing actual shows. Did we improve these shows? Nope.
In other places around the world people are paying for goods and services using an "M wallet", mobile phone software which facilitates mobile money transfer. In the US, if you look at job listings like I have, you see companies trying to maximize their credit cards or debit card technology. Hmm.
In the new economy, the people with the best products will win.
In triathlon, it gets more cloudy. Being fit is always huge, but with the advent of technology and gaps shrinking the "best product" will be the mind of the racer. Any gym rat can pound out a swim/bike/run if they train enough. People are training much more than ever and more technically sound with CompuTrainers, PowerCranks, heart rate monitors, and power meters people are getting faster as they race their ultra light bikes after swimming in their speed suits (which should be illegal) and then running in their ultra light and cushy shoes with their ugly compression socks.
Ideas are the new currency. Experience, pride and belief that another set at the right power can be done. Recovering faster eating all natural ingredients and sleeping at altitude. It is a shift in attitude that makes the difference. Take a look at the Kona results for Ironman and you can see which age groups are struggling with change and innovation. It doesn't take a degree to figure it out.
Mental training: integrating all the knowledge of training with the mental aspects of training that will make the difference. Getting the most out of a coach and athlete. This is where my athletes have an edge. I've always been able to do this and see through to an integrated solution. This is what I do in my career as well...and I'm great at it. This employs all the skills of the athlete, coach or business.
Not being afraid of change makes the difference between good and great. Innovation is the difference between great and legend.