Aside

Are You Standing Out Today?

People buy two categories of things.

The distinct. And the generic.

The distinct items are the things that have a limited commodity, that are artisan in nature, that are worth paying a premium for. They stand out for some reason. The generic items are, well, the things you find on Amazon.

If I start to describe a pink, ever-in-motion bunny, you know the brand of battery. [________]

You have recall because that distinct advertisement cemented something uniquely. For anything to be powerful in the marketplace, it has to be seen and remembered. No one can select it, when they can’t recall it.

This, of course, applies to people, as well as organizations:

If you work within an enterprise, this will mean you must stand out more at meetings. When you ask smart questions, challenge assumptions, and act proactively to solve problems that no one else steps up to…. You are distinctly someone worth promoting. The outspoken and proactive individual gets picked more times because he or she is distinctly memorable. We notice what sticks out. More importantly, know what ideas you are fighting for because that can form the basis of why you want to stick out from the rest.

If you are a business, and you share more about your category and expertise, your buyer will pick you because they know for sure you are the best. Don’t hide your price because it’s high. Show, don’t tell, why you are worth that price and what a mark of distinction it is to be your customer. Instead of hiding all your insights until someone buys your product, share those insights broadly so you stand apart. Distinctness means you can turn category enthusiasts, or existing customers into promoters. Stand out in a market of many, to become a market of one.

If you are an entrepreneur, it means you should stop buying into the advice you read. Studying Facebook and Google, and anyone else who came before you is simply celebrating the past. Celebrating the past is what magazines, research analysts, and papers do. They report what worked for the last one who made it but you can rarely win by copying what has already been done. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos did not follow the business practices of his day to invent (and persistently reinvent) his business, neither did Apple’s Steve Jobs, or Howard Schultz of Starbucks or … well any innovator…. How you become distinct is not a cut and paste exercise. It is born of learning, building, and development to push an idea to its edge.

For an individual, this means that you step out of trying to fitting in, and start celebrating your own uniqueness. Or said in my very own Nilofer-ism, it is when each of us stop kissing-ass so we can be kick-ass. You stop buying into the notion that there is one way to do anything, and then develop the thing that only you can bring to the table.

It’s true there is a market for commodity things, and generic people or products. Those markets force you to optimize for speed, efficiency, and perhaps service.

Commodity markets do not reward creativity, which is a result of hard work, owning your onlyness, and habits. So doing the commodity thing may very well be the right choice for you or your business. I can’t decide that for you.

But if you want to be one of the distinct ones – an innovator, a leader of ideas, a change agent to make the world a better place, there is only 1 way to do it, and that is to be distinct.

(Want to know why people avoid being distinct? Part II of this series post will answer that. If you don’t already subscribe to this blog, do it. You don’t want to miss out.)

 

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12 Responses:

  1. Kate Pelton. December 15, 2011 at 8:36 pm  |  

    Interesting – I would love to read your thoughts on how this interacts with your great ideas around co-creation and offering ideas with an open palm. How do you stand out as an individual in a large company and have a unique and recallable personal brand if all of your efforts result in outcomes that people can only remember as “collaborative efforts”?

    Reply
  2. Nilofer Merchant. December 15, 2011 at 10:55 pm  |  

    Kate –

    Great question and thanks for asking it..

    Collaborative work and co-creating ideas doesn’t mean that we show up empty-handed ready to create. Rather, co-creative work means each of us know what we each know but we hold open a question for what what is needed. The not-knowing is the space in the middle. So if I’m an expert on collaborative work and you are an expert in finance, and we — together — are solving a problem that is in the commons, then I need to admit that I don’t know everything. But the more people know that I know my stuff about collaborative work means they will invite me to the table to contribute that piece. See the difference.

    I see collaboration as a way to solve those problems that are the intractable ones *we* need to solve together because I cannot do it alone.

    Let me know if that does / not answer the question?

    Nilofer

    Reply
  3. Chris Oestereich. December 16, 2011 at 4:14 pm  |  

    O Captain! My Captain!

    Reply
  4. syamant. December 19, 2011 at 6:51 pm  |  

    Your post reminded of a thought I try to always remember. The possibility will always be in the future. A story is always about the past.

    Reply
    • Nilofer Merchant. December 19, 2011 at 6:59 pm  |  

      I’ll borrow that for the post I’m writing as part II. Thanks, as always, for sharing your ideas!

      Reply

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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