Does striving to be better than your colleagues or your competition guarantee your promotion or business success? This is one of the most wrongly answered questions in businesses and places of work. Growing up, children tend to be told to strive to be the best; better than siblings, mates at school, and when they grow, work colleagues.
On the contrary though, being better than another is not only overrated but also a misconception that has misled many in both life and business. But did you know that being better than someone is not as important nor fulfilling as being the different person that you are from others? Sally Hogshed, the originator of different is better than better sheds more light on this concept.
Sally Hogshed explains that as conversations become more compressed and the marketplace more crowded, there is the need to know how others see you and respond to you. Rather than just knowing your strengths, she encourages that you need to identify your differences and learn how to exploit them. She points out one very important fact that focusing on your difference frees you from having to turn into something else, or learn a new skill. Different allows you to highlight the singular traits you already have within you. You are not necessarily better than your competition; but you do have built-in qualities that allow you to rise above others.
She continues by acknowledging that it is good to be better, but better to be different; Different is better than better. The best part is you do not have to change who you are. You just have to become more of what you already are. The first step is to identify the traits of your personality or business that set you apart and fascinate your clients and associates.
One of my mentees recently came to me with a challenge she had. A business venture she had expressed interest in had suddenly become so common and she was concerned the competition she would have to face should she venture into that business or industry. Especially now, in the face of a pandemic, she was reluctant to pursue a venture for which she could not out rightly foretell its success.
She was ready to walk away before even starting. She had allowed being better, to distract her from what motivated her to explore that business to begin with. Like my mentee, many of us forget our worth and try hard to work at being like the people we admire – our bosses, superiors, colleagues, and mentors who we perceive as successful in their careers for instance. These people we admire so much in the workspace and our lives in general have identified their differences and exploited them to the best of their abilities.
It is a common fact that no two human beings have the same fingerprint, not even identical twins. This truth is the same with the traits and abilities that are innate in us with which we can also develop to make a difference wherever we find ourselves in our workspaces. So why do we strive so hard to be like others when we can be different and still make the impact we want to so much fulfill in the workplace?
In Jasmine Bina’s article on How to be Different, Not Better, she underscores some salient points on different being better than better as well. According to her the “better” trap is real. It is hard for brands to resist wanting to be better than the competitor in their brand messaging, and the trap hides in the most unexpected of places. Faster, cheaper, easier, more responsive, superior service, voted #1, top rated, guaranteed… these are all just other ways of saying “better”, as are the other common refrains we are all guilty of using. No matter how you employ these phrases (or ones like them) they are all just features and benefits. And under every feature and benefit lies a ‘better’ trap.
To get out of that trap, you need to change your frame of reference. A brand is not features or benefits. Your brand is a specific point of view. It is an opinion. A vision of the future. A way forward. A before and after. Your brand is a belief. Belief is the new benefit. This is where to really look. This is where a ‘different’ (not ‘better’) strategy starts to take shape. Although features and benefits definitely have an important place in your messaging, they are not the defining factors of your brand. In many cases, they are not even the pillars you build your brand on top of.
To be different is to expand your frame of reference, and that is a paradigm shift very much worth exploring. Even if your product and business model are better (or the best), a brand narrative resting on those two factors will not be rewarded in the long run. As long as you are ‘better than X’, your identity is tied to that other entity. You are always in some version of a mudslinging fight, even if you never mention the other’s name. You are simply defining yourself against the very thing you are trying to separate from. A lot of superior product and service companies still lose to brands that dare to be different in their perspectives.
I have learnt over the years to appreciate and celebrate my difference in entrepreneurship journey, interactions and engagements. Through my evolution from working corporate to full time entrepreneurship, a number of things have become clear to me for business success.
Here are 4 steps to guide us in learning to focus on being different instead of becoming better:
- IDENTIFY WHAT IS UNIQUE TO YOU
There is a uniqueness in everyone and to be different you have to assess yourself to find out what yours is. It is normally easy to copy someone or something that is already established. To be different however, you literally need to find out that new thing which is unique to you that others can identify you with.
2. MOVE FROM BASIC TO SPECIFIC
It may be true that many others offer the services or products that you offer, but the difference is not in the ‘what’ but the ‘how’; how you deliver your ‘what’ matters. A baker may produce bread, cookies and pie for general use. You however may decide to produce baked goods for healthy living; bread for weight loss, cookies for lowering blood sugar levels. A manufacturer of ergonomic chairs for office use may decide to move away from the plastics everyone uses to environmentally friendly materials. He may even decide to use in production a raw material that reduces waste and pollution. Position your brand to be known for one key thing that brings value to your clients or customers.
3. SHIFT FOCUS
As you move from basic to specific, you must also shift your focus to your clients unlike the traditional way where companies or entrepreneurs reveal themselves to their clients instead of revealing the clients to themselves. Instead of expressing who you are to your clients, express who your clients are to them. In a movement like that you can be the sole opinion that demonstrates how your brand belief will transform them. While other businesses, organizations and entrepreneurs talk about themselves, you should be talking about the customer.
4. CHANGE THE REALITY
As Jasmine Bina puts it, People think their reality is one way right now, but you can change that. Smart companies reframe what people take for granted, so that consumers adopt a new reality that benefits the brand.
After all, one of our favorite stories as a society is, “omg, we’ve been doing wrong this whole time!” Gut health, natural baby care, cleansing diets and inflammation, modern dating, flat organizations, solo travel – these were all versions of “omg we’ve been doing it wrong”, and as they emerged in the collective consciousness, there was always a brand that helped verbalize the story and bring it to light.
Viome is in an increasingly crowded space of home testing kits focusing on the microbiome and gut bacteria. uBiome, Thryve and Wellnicity all have similar products, but none of them tell the story that Viome is telling. While others use their brand positioning to link gut health to wellness (image above) and tell the story “there’s a connection here,” Viome takes a different track: For Viome, the story is “Everything we knew about food and diets was wrong.
This is how to do it right.” In other words, omg! We’ve been doing it wrong this whole time. Viome reframed the same product in a very different story, and puts every competitor outside of their target consumer’s consideration set.
For every business idea, there are multiple entrepreneurs and business owners exploring same. Clients and customers now look out for not just how good you are, but how well you do what you do. It is better to focus on being different at what you do rather than try to be the best. The concept of aiming to be best has long ceased to be the ideal approach. There is more than enough space for your difference.
Are you ready for TRANSFORMATION?
Dzigbordi K. Dosoo: The H.E.L.P. Coach
Dzigbordi K. Dosoo is a Soft Skills Expert, Personal Impact, Professional Growth and Influence Expert specializing in Humanness, Entrepreneurship, Leadership and Power – H.E.L.P.
A career spanning over two decades, she has established herself as a Certified High Performance Coach, Speaker, Author, Wellness Expert and award-winning Entrepreneur with a clientele ranging from C-Suite Executives, Senior Management, Practitioners and Sales Leaders spanning 3 continents.
She is the Soft Skills Expert and Founder of Dzigbordi K. Dosoo (DKD) Holdings; a premier lifestyle business group with brand subsidiaries that include Dzigbordi Consulting Group& Allure Africa.
Dzigbordi has been featured on CNN for her entrepreneurial expertise. She is one of the most decorated female entrepreneurs in Ghana having being named “CIMG Marketing Woman of the Year” in 2009; “Top 10 most respected CEOs in Ghana, 2012; Global Heart of Leadership Award and, Women Rising “100 Most Influential Ghanaian Women”, 2017.
She can be reached on [email protected] and @dzigbordikwaku across all social media platforms.