I picked up Different: Escaping the Competitive Herd after browsing the shelves at my local Kinokuniya bookstore. The title itself is interesting — the promise, even more so. How can one be different among a sea of competition? How can your product, your work stand out among so many others? How can someone succeed in a world where conformity reigns and exceptions rule?
Title: Different: Escaping the Competitive Herd
Hardcover: 288 pages
From the start, reviewers have warned me about not expecting this book to be a hands-on business book. That’s fine. I don’t need another book screaming out to me “How to get that sale, STAT!” (or something along those lines — you get my drift). Differentiating opinions had me highly intrigued, and I figured with a subject that I really loved reading about I went for it and read it with no expectations whatsoever.
By the end of the book, I think I have a definition of what this book is.
It’s a lecture. A long, and very enlightening one.
And with all good lectures, the teacher doesn’t tell you exactly how to solve your problems. They merely share with you their views, tips and years of experience – a glance through their eyes of the subject matter at hand, and this is what Different is about. There’s no step by step on how to conquer your market; because each business is different (or at least, they should be!) You won’t find nifty little sidebar packed with information or links to this or that. What you’ll find is a good, solid lecture about brands and business evolutions as seen through the eyes of a mother, a lecturer, and a woman.
Thought provoking and written in a conversational style, you’ll feel as though you’re sitting down with Youngme herself for a chat about the topic. She has cleverly chosen to go a different route with this book as well – while the title sounds like a business how-to, she mentioned that this was precisely why she set out to write a book that eschewed the norm of dishing out one-liners and pep talk. Instead, she manages to maintain the interest of the reader to delve into the subject matter further to decipher for themselves the points she puts across so eloquently in her book.
For each and every one of us, competition exist within. To be better, bigger, faster than the competition. One of your competition starts something new, and before you know it, everyone else does the same thing! Pretty soon, the market is flooded with the same thing that no one wants anymore. And you’re left with something that you didn’t really want, but did anyway because you saw someone else do it. Your time could have been spent thinking up other things that would have made a difference instead; both for you and your customer, but you got caught up. You were competing instead of stopping and checking yourself.
I’d like to share something about myself: I hate competing against other people. I remember that I deliberately made a stand to not participate in competitive sports because I hated it that much. And why did I? I disliked the way competition made me feel (and in this case, because it was about physical strength and probabilities — there is no in between, there is only a winner or just plenty losers.)
I suppose that I rebel against competing, and I find that I don’t really care so much about competitors. I would be so tired from keeping up with other people’s pace that I might lose sight of my own one day. So what do I do? I stick my nose where it belongs — in my work and my community.
With the abundance of information out there, there’s too much noise and too little time, and as a result, not a lot of critical thinking is happening. Questions of what, how, and especially why are not being asked enough. Are people scared of the unknown? Would they rather stick to being part of a herd than try to challenge the norm? Why, why, why? Why not?
So do you do things for the sake of doing them (or out of unconscious one-upmanship), or do you do things differently because it’s the best for your customers? Perhaps if you belong the the first group, now may be a good time to think a little differently.
How about getting the book so that you can understand how you can buck the trend and avoid being a part of the herd — especially the ones that falls off the cliff at the end!
Another good weekend read to shake things up: Adele of Modernmotive’s blog post: Who’s pace are you running at?