How To Be Different and Stand Out

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Premise:

One of the side effect of the explosion of social media is that every one is trying to be seen (views), heard (downloads) and appreciated (likes/shares). In this constant struggle to be seen/heard/appreciated, everyone is trying to be different and unique and authentic. And that is the true challenge.

According to National Human Genome Research institute,

“All human beings are 99.9 percent identical in their genetic makeup.”

Which means that we are all that different from each other genetically. The 0.1 percent that does differentiate us genetically is influenced by our environment, exposure and experience we have had in our lives. Given that most of us live in an environment that is similar (we tend to flock with people that are similar to us), there is very little that separates us.

So, when we do want to stand out in the crowd (can be within your organisation or in the marketplace or on social media), it turns out to be a difficult thing to accomplish. And this is not just an individual challenge but also a business challenge.

As mentioned in a post on GapingVoid (with the same title), vast majority of businesses are vulnerable to somebody coming along and offering to build a better mousetrap at a lower price. Harry makes a damn fine $2 pizza slice, but it’s just a matter of time before the Sal down the street offers a comparable slice for $1. And it’s not just true with dollar pizzas. It’s true with $400 chainsaws. Or $5,000 refrigerators. Or $100 million jet fighters. How the hell can you be different or stand out?  

Here are a few ideas:

Think Different:

According to GapingVoid, the answer is to “Think Different”, just like Apple did in their campaign with the same name. Thinking different is not very common and not something that you can start doing suddenly one day. The foundations for the ability to think different needs to be laid long before the ability is needed. (AirBnB?)

See differently:

One way to be able to develop the ability to think differently is to be able to see differently, which is easy if you actually see different things. One way to do that is to travel to places that your peers don’t travel to, wear tinted glass (idea filters – read different things, attend different conferences, listen to different podcasts, watch different movies, watch different documentaries, etc). You get the idea. (Ford and his assembly line?)

Hire differently:

If you are working in a team, you could bring in diverse perspectives by hiring people who are not like you – who don’t think like you, who have grown up in a different environment, have experienced a life that is very different from your own and have been exposed to things that others in the team have not. And then build a culture where all of the get a voice and the space to share their thinking without being judged or belittled. (Can you think of any example?)

Process differently:

Like in cooking, all of us are given the same ingredients to work with. However, with almost the same ingredients, each one of us can cook very different dishes. The only way to constantly push boundaries mix up the way we process our experiences, exposure in the environment. One way to do that is to use the scientific way – create an experiment (hypotheses, test and confirm/deny the hypotheses). (Facebook?)

Design / Create / Execute differently:

This all boils down to the nitty-gritty of execution. We all might have the same idea but the tools that we use to create and bring the idea to life could be different. The way we execute the idea could be different (Lady Gaga or Apple?)

Engage differently:

All said and done, the way you engage with the world can make you stand out. Are you going to be accessible, inaccessible or weird? How easy or difficult is it going to be for someone to engage you?  Some people stand out by not standing out (Banksy?).

In conclusion:

These are just a few different ways to stand out. We can use a combination of these ideas or just pick one and go deep with that idea. Just like in cooking, here are the ingredients, all we need to do is to mix and match them to our liking (the 0.1 percent of what makes us unique) and be confident to bring it out. Sometimes we might succeed and sometimes we might need to go back and rework. And this is what makes our lives interesting and worth living. Isn’t it?

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