Being different is NOT about being different for the sake of being different.
Before talking about what being different IS, I need to clarify what being different is NOT, because there are misconceptions that must be dealt with.
- Being different is NOT about self expression—‘Who you are’—rather it’s about CHOOSING to express yourself in a unique and different way in order to accomplish a task or meet a challenge.
- Being different is NOT about your DNA—what you were born with—rather it’s about what you choose to do with the gifts given to you.
- Being different is NOT about ‘doing your own thing’; rather doing what’s required in a unique way, in a one-of-a-kind way, in a way that ONLY you do.
- And, being different is NOT about ‘following your own direction’; rather choosing a direction that creates value for people in a way no one else does.
What is being different?
Being different is being truly unique in the way you improve the performance of your organization, advance your career and enhance your life.
Being different IS about standing out in a compelling and relevant way that people CARE about.
Applying your skills and competencies in a way that is relevant within a context—frame of reference—given to you. You’re given a problem to solve, and you look for a different way to solve the problem.
There is no formula for being different in a way that matters to people; every person must find their own way.
But the one prerequisite is that you have to WANT to take a different journey. You have to WANT to make a difference in a one-of-a-kind way. And you have to be prepared to absorb the pain—and push forward—you’ll feel along the way as you struggle to step away from the crowd and repel the forces and people that want you to conform with the common herd.
Tools I used to BE DiFFERENT
#1. Remind yourself. — Look at every challenge you’re facing through a ‘BE DiFFERENT Lens’. Ask yourself “How can I do this differently?”.
You will be amazed at how this simple tactic opens up your mind to atypical ways of doing things; after a while, stepping out becomes second nature.
#2. Create, don’t copy — Purge benchmarking from your tool kit.
Being different is about creating something unique (new), and you can’t do that when you’re in the copying mode.
Here’s a secret on how you CAN use copying to be different…
Copy them and morph, change, revise a ‘best in class’ idea into a breakaway idea that is something truly unique that people CARE about.
#3. Ditch the Manual. — Throw the manual away on the traditional ‘normal’—theoretically based—ways of addressing specific types of challenges.
If you use a textbook approach to solving a problem, you’re simply increasing the ‘sameness herd’ by one person.
And you’re perpetuating the inherent problems with the prescribed methods (academics don’t always get it right because they’ve rarely built a competitive business TO A $BILLION in annual sales.)
How I threw away the book on defining competitive advantage
Literally every organization uses traditional methods to define their competitive advantage and produce such CLAPTRAP competitive advantage statements as “We are better…”; “We are the best…”; “We are the market leader…”; “We are number one…”; “We are the most…”
Examples: “Canada’s largest and most reliable 5G network”
“XXX offers the best coffee and espresso drinks for consumers who want premium ingredients and perfection every time.”
“We work hard every day to make XXX the world’s most respected service brand.”
These statements deal more with what the organizations produce, rather than declare their uniqueness, and they are at best aspirational.
They can’t be proven and don’t answer the question “Why should I do business with you and not your competitors?”
To address the deficiencies in this rote approach, I created The ONLY Statement to address the issue.
“We are the ONLY ones who…”
“Roy Osing is the ONLY author, entrepreneur and executive leader who delivers practical and proven ‘Audacious Unheard-of Ways’ (no one else talks about ‘Audacious Unheard-of Ways’) to build high performing businesses and successful careers.” Proof point: I took a startup to A BILLION IN SALES.
So, consider standard methods as a base for your work, but always be looking for ways to BREAKAWAY from them and create a unique more meaningful solution.
#4. SURPRISE ‘em. — Ask yourself “What would surprise people in the way I solved a problem or delivered what was expected of me?”
Sure, be guided by standards to produce a standard solution but take the extra step to look for the SURPRISE Factor. Do simple things; it doesn’t have to be complicated.
I created a ‘Cleanse the Inside’ program to reduce internal bureaucracy and delete the policies that customers hated. The two specific projects that surprised and captured the imagination and curiosity of people who had fun with them were: Kill Dumb Rules and Cut the CRAP.
#5. Have a theme. — I was obsessed with finding new ways to enhance the performance of my organization, and I used EXECUTION as my guide to BE DiFFERENT.
I was constantly looking for different ways to improve the execution of our strategic game plan… to Take a Startup TO A BILLION IN SALES.
Elements of my different approach included:
- ‘Head West’ Plan. Abbreviating the front end planning process and enhancing back end execution.
- Line of Sight Leadership.
- Established the Strategy Hawk role to oversee and own the execution of our strategy.
I stayed clear of looking for different ways of THINKING, and looked for different ways of DOING.
#6. Try. Try. Try. — Be a ‘trier’. Try—and fail—more than the next person. You need a ‘tries funnel’, loaded with opportunities to be different.
#7. Be imperfect fast. — Don’t look for perfection. IF you are obsessed with finding the perfect solution (which doesn’t exist anyway) you don’t DO anything.
The desire to be perfect keeps people from getting stuff done. And it’s doing stuff that earns you the reward for being different.
#8. Look at your toes. — Take a short term view to be different. “How can I solve this problem differently NOW so improved results will be realized NOW?”
Being different in the moment has power for you and those around you. You will realize very few benefits of being different if your energy is spent on looking for uniqueness 5 years from now.
For example, my Strategic Game Plan process has a 24-month planning horizon as opposed to the traditional 5-year planning period.
What can I do differently TODAY to improve outcomes is always my drive to kick performance to another level.
#9. Oppose the flow. — Be contrarian minded. Observe where the herd’s going—based on conventional thinking—and take the opposite approach. Do a 180 to the way everyone else is doing it.
These are a couple of examples of my ‘go against the flow’ tactics:
- Do-it-yourself strategic micromanagement. Putting the leader’s—my—‘fingerprints’ on key strategic activities that have a critical impact on the performance of the organization. I got personally involved with architecting the customer engagement process to ensure there was no ambiguity in what was required to create memorable customer experiences.
- Hiring for Goosebumps as the way to recruit people who ‘liked humans’.
#10. Inject practical juices. — Redefine a commonly accepted approach with ‘a practical eye’. Looking at principles and common beliefs and practices through a practical lens. What outcomes do the standard methods expect will result? Do they produce expected outcomes?
“My objective is to inject some ‘practical juice’ into the standard way of thinking to actually deliver better performance and outcomes.”
One example of how I put my practical twist on a common practice is leadership, and in particular, servant leadership which has this common definition:
“Servant leadership is a leadership style and philosophy whereby an individual interacts with others—either in a management or fellow employee capacity—to achieve authority rather than power.”
I chose to look at how this common view of servant leadership could be morphed into something that had more of a direct impact on the results of my organization which was related to how effectively our strategy was being EXECUTED.
I created a new leadership concept, Leadership by Serving Around—LBSA—designed to help people do their jobs more effectively, thereby enhancing the execution of our strategy.
My key practical elements of LBSA are:
- Wandering around asking people “How can I help?”
- It’s a personal question, not an organizational one.
- LBSA is NOT a style of leadership, it’s a strategic move targeted at determining what’s preventing people from executing the game plan of the organization — it’s a means to THAT end.
- It’s a ‘Cleanse-the-Inside’ of the organization process to enable people to do their jobs easier and more effectively and to eliminate barriers—‘Dumb Rules—to customer satisfaction.
A key LBSA question I ask is “What’s preventing you from saying ‘Yes’ to customers?
#11. Find a do-it mentor. — Cast aside the traditional mentor with a string of 9 letters behind their name recognizing their academic achievement, and find a stable of MBA’s—Masters in Business Achievement, people who have a distinguished track record of leading teams to unheard of levels of performance.
As I’ve said before, the context for being different is adding value and performing at breathtaking levels of performance. Mentors who have consistently done this are your target.
Some of my favorite examples of being different:
Remember, being different isn’t about what you were born with; it’s about using the gifts you’ve been given to achieve remarkable things that benefit others.