“When everyone is thinking alike, do your own thinking!” – Futurist Jim. Carroll
Being unique is the basis of all innovation – because if you are doing what everyone else is doing, you aren’t innovating.
You are copying.
With that in mind, chase your uniqueness; thrive on your differences; celebrate your oddities. I’ve never liked the word ‘conformity.’ To me, it reeks of the failure of sameness, an admission of defeat. You are giving up on your ideas and beliefs in order to achieve the approval of others. Why? What’s the point?
That type of thinking was confirmed to me while I was undertaking research for a keynote I’m giving to a senior group of insurance executives in Florida later this week; my detailed research hit upon these two gems.
First, the idea of ‘competition on the basis of being unique!’
Creativity may be at the root of new breakthroughs in insurance coverage, distribution and product development but innovation is the skill of taking new ideas and fashioning them into breakthrough products and services, said American International Group’s Chief Innovation and Strategic Relationship Officer Matthew Power.
“Creativity, in my view, involves the process of ideation and the conceptualization. Innovation involves the commercialization of an organization’s creativity,” Power said. “So I always tell my team that there’s no shortage of creativity within our organization, rather the challenge for the industry is harnessing that creativity in a way that allows it to be functionally and tactically commercialized into the marketplace.”
Matching or outrunning competitors is a traditional path to growth, but game-changing breakthroughs come only when organizations invent or create entire new products and categories of services, Power said. “A better approach to building true, sustainable competitive advantage is this notion of competing on the basis of being different from your competitors. Competition on the basis of being unique is really at the nexus of innovation and building tangible value for your customers over time.“
Creating a Breakthrough
1 February 2013, Best’s Review
Second, why being unique is the foundation of all innovation, and why understanding the future is the basis of that uniqueness:
Innovation “becomes a core earning stream,” another panelist said. It becomes the basis of how a company competes, said Matthew Power, president of Risk Specialists Cos. Inc. and executive vp of Lexington Insurance Co. in Boston. Mr. Power said some companies make the mistake of trying to compete on the basis of being the best in their field, which he called a “limited structure.”
Instead, he said being unique is the basis of innovation. This means understanding trends and anticipating how those trends will affect buyers, he said.
Innovation, execution go hand in hand
5 April 2010, Business Insurance
Music to my ears!
When it comes to that type of thinking about innovation, I’ve been dealing with a lot of organizations who have had some very interesting, innovative approaches to business strategy. Here’s a short list to think about as to how you stir up some innovation by messing with your business strategy – by being unique. Refusing to do what everyone else is doing, and doing your own thing!
- look out: don’t ask what you can do to run your business better — ask what you can due to run your customer, supplier, or partner’s business better!
- move beyond: most projects start out with one strategic goal in mind. Successful innovators realize partway into the project that myriad other new, unknown, and very cool opportunities are opening up — that they hadn’t even thought of before.
- watch everything: Keep your eyes open! Spot that one unique trend that might define a different pathway where you can stand out!
- turn the tables: a lot of industries are being Amaozoned and WalMartized and HomeDepotized, and have to meet certain operational expectations while facing intense competition. Refuse to play the game – invent a new game! Innovators go beyond standard industry practice and do cool things that let them regain more control over their relationship with customers. Don’t be commoditized – go bigger!
- go upside down: don’t think that you are the only one who can figure out how to innovate with your product or service – focus on customer-oriented innovation. If you look around, you’ll probably realize that they are already way ahead of you in reinventing, redefining, and repurposing what it is you sell them. Use THAT as a basis for innovation.
- be cool: smart people don’t want to work for companies that have no innovation oxygen. They’re looking for companies that are busting their markets, ramping up growth, and are willing to take a risk. Your brand isn’t just your product — it’s your attractability index! And here’s an even better secret: even existing staff want you to be cool. They’re seeing innovation all around them, and they want you doing it too, even if they grumble and groan about it.
- build your street-cred: your customers, suppliers, and partners live in a world in which everyone has instant insight, operational excellence, and staff who know what is going on. If you don’t, you lose your credibility, and you lose more than that. You’ve got to continue to invest to keep up with the ever-increasing minimum bar of expectations that’s out there.
- slice and dice: you’re a loser if you play in a commodity economy. Build the intelligence that lets you know where you can win by being premium, and tossing the rest of your customers overboard.
- routinely innovate: get away from spreadsheet-based compliance, and realize real business process transformation. View any emerging regulatory requirement as an innovation opportunity, and you’re golden!
- extend and embrace: make your insight your partner’s insight, and let your transactions be their transactions! While “portals” sounds so-90s, it’s still one of the leading-edge innovation strategies out there, and it has a big impact.
Above all, stop chasing harmony. Avoid groupthink. Kill committees. Stop seeking consensus. Banish buy-in. Forget concurrence. Give up on the goal of unanimity. These are the words, ideas, and cultures that kill uniqueness. Instead, celebrate your uniqueness, and use it as fuel for your creativity. The fact is, when everyone is running one way, run the other way! Because when everyone is thinking the same thing, you’ll always end up with the same thing!
Nature abhors complacency, despises routine, destroys hubris, punishes consistency, reorders routines, inhibits uniformity, and abandons mediocrity. Don’t be like everyone else. Be yourself!