By Somali K Chakrabarti
If you don’t have a competitive advantage, don’t compete. -Jack Welch
In a tough market crowded with multiple sellers, only those with a distinct competitive advantage can survive. This holds good not only for businesses, but also for individuals. What renders you a competitive advantage is your ability to be different than others in a way that you stand out of the crowd.
Dare to be different
Competitive strategy is about being different. ~ Michael Porter
Being different allows you to create your own space rather than vie for a slice of the same pie.
But being different is not just enough. It is easy to be weird or try gimmicks to be different. What differentiates you from others is your ability to be consistently perceived as being better than others. This is possible only when you have a unique value proposition.
Be Consistently Better
Here is what Steve Jobs said:
I don’t think its good that we’re perceived as different. I think i’s important we’re perceived as much better. If being different is essential to doing that, then we have to do that, but if we could be much better without being different that’d be fine with me. I want to be much better! ~ Steve jobs
Be prepared to learn and unlearn
In order to be different you have to be prepared to learn and unlearn faster than others, and translate the learning quickly into action.
The ability to learn faster than your competitors may be only sustainable competitive advantage. ~ Arie de Geus
If the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is in sight. ~ Jack Welch
Being different from others involves considerable risk
To be different you have to let go of certainties, and be prepared to embrace uncertainties.
It takes nothing to join the crowd. It takes everything to stand alone. ~ Hans F Hansen
As much as being different is fraught with risk, it is a risk worth taking, if you can afford to do so. However, people are mostly afraid of taking risks.
The tolerance for failure tends to go down, as people move up the career ladder. Successful people on the top often don’t like taking risks because they don’t want to be known for anything that they failed at. Management incentives are mostly tied to the success of their initiatives, so many a times leaders are afraid of trying new things as they don’t want to be seen as people who created a failed project.
When people are afraid of trying new things, it curbs innovation.
Nothing new will ever be created if people do not take risks. You may fail or you may succeed but the effort is worth taking because :
The risk of doing nothing is the greatest risk of all. ~ Proverb
So, if you are different, dare to be different and carve out your own niche.
A special thanks to Maniparna Sengupta Majumdar for reminding me of the Bengali song “Jodi tor daak shune keu na aashey tobe ekla cholo re” written by Rabindranath Tagore, which urges you to make your way alone even if no one responds to your call.
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