Two roads diverge in a wood and I –
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
- Theodore Roosevelt
Recently I've seen multiple times on articles and social networks the phrase "You've to be the best to succeed".
And that's true: It's easier to succeed in life and in business when you're the best. Specially if you're the best at something valuable for other people.
But this quote assumes something very dangerous: If you're not the best in something you'll not succeed.
So, your goal in life and business must be the best in something. Only the best deserve success. If you're not the best, you'll fail.
And the biggest danger about if only the best succeed is that this idea can block you from even trying.
The effort required to be the best at something is daunting and the risk of not being able to achieve it is huge. How much time do we need to be ready to launch our great idea? Who knows how many other businesses are trying to do something similar that could make our product or service irrelevant? And what can the existing big players, that have much more resources and influence, do during this time?
How do you define "best"?
But apart from this danger there's an important misconception related to the concept of being "the best".
If there's a best product in some area, then everyone should compete to be there. And there won't be space for others. The winner take's it all.
The real question is: How do you define "best"?
Which is your best city? Your best car? Your best restaurant? Your best novel?
Do you think your closest friends will agree with you?
Let's take the example of the best car. Let's imagine that everyone in the world (the 7,472,445,293 people at that precise moment) could afford to have the, let's say, most expensive Ferrari. Would you like to have exactly the same Ferrari as everyone else in your city? Maybe you prefer a luxury car or an eco-friendly car or a van or a bike or, why not? the public transportation.
Choose where to be the best
People is diverse and values diversity. Some people value the most quality, others price, other originality, others speed of service, others a personal touch, and so on. Geeks (like me) would kill to have the latest hi-tech device while rest of people won't see any special value in that. Some people would buy a bargain even if they don't have any use for what they are buying because they love doing good businesses. Philanthropists cannot understand that some people is not willing to sacrifice everything for the well-being of humankind.
Being the best is a valid concept. But there are multiple "best" definitions. As every person has different values, the definition of "best" changes for every one of us. In fact, now we have 7,472,447,116 different definitions (yes, it has increased by nearly 2,000 while I'm writing this per worldometers.info)
There's plenty of space to be the best. It is absurd to try to compete all for the same goal when there are millions of possibilities out there. Billions of customers are out there and a handful would appreciate what we can offer to them. Probably, they are quite unsatisfied because "the best" only offers to them something that's not really what fulfils them.
What's really important is to have a unique approach to your service.
There's plenty of space to be the best. Choose your star / #Innovation
Copycats are replaceable
From the schoolyard, we've been trained to compete. In classroom, we were all studying the same subjects, doing exams, and comparing scores to each other. The best ones were praised and those below the average suspended.
And this has been ingrained in our mind. We've to follow the path of the successful ones. Even if there are plenty of paths to choose from.
I’ve found many companies that consider innovation as doing something they haven't done before. So, when they launch and "innovation project", they idea is to copy what others are already doing. They believe that they can do it much better than the ones that have already launched it.
What's the point in that?
Being a copycat has been considered the way to do businesses during a lot of time. The concept on which franchises are based is to create a system and replicate them hundreds of times. Then they search for people that can be taught the system and that can run following the system rules. This people can be easily replaced because they have nothing special to offer to the business.
The same happens when you run a business that is doing exactly the same as many others. You're replaceable by any similar competitor.
Copycats are replaceable / #Innovation
Your pathway to become Unique
This is what I propose to really differentiate and become unique:
- Discover what are your true values, your strengths, what makes you special, what you have experience and you can contribute more. What your existing customers (if you have them) love from your service.
- Build your strategy based on your uniqueness. Highlight your unique values. Make them the basis of your message. It does not matter if it’s not the most travelled path. Everyone offers the best service or the best price, but probably very few people have your experience in contributing your knowledge to a niche sector very narrow and specific.
- Identify your market. Your audience. Who may be interested in these differential services? Keep in mind that technology and digitization also open many doors. Everyone can be at your fingertips.
- Validate that there is real interest in your uniqueness. Contact your audience and check that they need your special service.
- Focus on what makes you unique. As your strategy works you abandon other practices you may be having that do not contribute to that which differentiates you and makes you unique. It will help you clarify your positioning with clients and reinforce your knowledge in the area in which you have defined focus.
Build your strategy based on your uniqueness / #Innovation
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