business, rabbit holes and differentiation
“Chance favors the connected mind.”
Ok. We chase a lot of things in business in search of ‘advantage’. We sometimes chase them so blindly and relentlessly we don’t even recognize the rabbit hole we have started running down. Differentiation is one of those rabbit holes.
Now. I have a warped perspective <it includes rabbit holes> with regard to differentiation and differentiating in the business world. I think it’s a shit objective. Ok. It CAN be a shithole objective. But suffice it to say I believe chasing differentiation is … well … yes … often a rabbit hole.
To be clear. I don’t dislike differentiation and I believe a well differentiated sustainable idea can dominate a market. But. Chasing differentiation seems to take on some fairly absurd efforts to attain the objective. In addition. I worry about differentiation as an objective because it points people in the wrong direction. If I were to kill this whole differentiation thing, I would begin by saying “define, define, define.” Define yourself with such a clear distinctive thought that permits you stand up and say ‘here is who I am.’
Here is the deal. Sometimes you may look similar to someone else. But more often you will look like ,well, you. And in a sometimes complex fragmented world where everyone is shouting how different they are <and people are becoming more & more cynical> distinctness can win. And more often than not you will also be, well, different. In addition. In today’s world about the only sustainable differentiation isn’t a thing, it is knowledge, thinking & what you have done with what you learn.
Regardless. The meaningless rabbit hole. In our blind pursuit of differentiation we can make some fairly absurd decisions with regard to thoughtless specialization, nuanced differentiation and niche definition. In our blind pursuit of differentiation we can gleefully land on some ‘spot’ and declare differentiation victory only to have it all negated because of lack of alignment throughout all aspects of operations. Attempted, or false/meaningless, differentiation is useless and distracting and a rabbit hole.
Bottom line on differentiation is the reckless pursuit of it encourages us to lie to ourselves, i.e., convince ourselves of ‘true difference’ when it is simply meaningless differentiation. And therein lies the worst of the rabbit hole. Pretending to not see the truth, or maybe <to be kinder>, to pretend it is what it isn’t.
“… the person who pretends to not see the truth is committing something much worse than a mortal sin, which can only ruin one’s soul – but instead committing us all to lifetimes of pain.
The truth is not just something we bring to light to amuse ourselves; the truth is the axis munid, the dead center of the earth. When it’s out of place nothing is right; everyone is in the wrong place; no light can penetrate. Happiness evades us and we spread pain and misery wherever we go. Each person, above all others, has an obligation to recognize the truth and stand by it.”
Many business people simply ignore truth as they pursue this elusive <and debatably poor objective> thing called differentiation. Far <far> too many business people embrace acceptable doubt and the possibility that a stupid belief might have something going for it in the pursuit of ‘differentiation’ all the while completely ignoring something that makes you distinct <but possibly not different>. Let’s call it ‘an obvious and rational truth.’ People ignore it because they believe it will get you nowhere.
These are the meetings and discussions in which I often sit dumbfounded and silent and thinking ‘wow … the rabbit hole just gained a whole new crowd of loons.’
“…I was calm on the outside but thinking all the time.”
A Clockwork Orange
Our relentless pursuit of differentiating most often than not leads to an unimportant product feature <not what customers consider valuable>
“Differentiation is a unique quality, perceived or real, of a good or service that distinguish it from a competing good or service…”
Look. I fully realize that the need to be distinctive and competitive are the reasons why the company needs to think about differentiation. However, differentiation can take on so many faces there is no reason you should end up chasing down some rabbit hole for some elusive ‘this is what you MUST seek’ objective as defined by one expert <only to have another expert state unequivocally you need to chase another completely different shiny object>.
Suffice it to say, I can almost guarantee whenever someone brings up differentiation it is more often than not simply code for “please enter this rabbit hole.”
Next. The perfection rabbit hole. On a parallel course is a similar group chasing perfection often ending up in the same rabbit hole as the differentiators <can get awful crowded in that business rabbit hole>. The pursuit of perfection is an insidious rabbit hole. Its stench seeps into the darkest corners of an organization. And while the stench is enough to make anyone’s stomach heave most organizations have people with no real ability and yet strive to maintain an aura of ability under the guise of ‘seeking perfection for the good of the organization.’
More good employees are actually LED into the perfection rabbit hole than employees who actually CHOOSE to dive into the perfection rabbit hole. That said. Organizations are built over this particular rabbit hole. Every organization. It is the unfortunate burden of every organization to deal with the pursuit of perfection.
“Just because you took longer than others doesn’t mean you failed.”
Maybe that is my biggest point about rabbit holes and business. Some of the things we seek most in business, whether it be differentiation or perfection or whatever silly thing you have decided will better your business, always seem to take longer than what you want. We get impatient. And if we get really thoughtful about this whole impatience we would realize that our aggravation is with Life and not any inability within ourselves <or even in assessment the foolish pursuit of this un-real reality objective>.
we SHOULD be more thoughtful about this more often … mostly because if we do not far too many of the wrong people get fired <the right ones> and too many of the wrong people <the wrong ones> get praised and encouraged to maintain the ‘pursuit’ for the good f the organization.
Regardless. Life does not suffer fools lightly. Life is oblivious to your impatience <and relatively indifferent to you in general>. And Life bleeds into any and every organization.
How does Life deal with the fools and silly impatient people? Rabbit holes. It gives us rabbit holes to chase after silly things and dive into in our relentless pursuit of attaining “it” and waste our lives wandering aimlessly within.
But here is where Business and personal Life diverge.
In personal Life you are responsible for the stupid choices you make. Choose to enter a rabbit hole and the issue is all yours to own. In business you can actually get shoved into a rabbit hole whether you want to or not.
All I can tell you is that when I hear someone leading a discussion about ‘how are we different’ and ‘what’s our differentiation?” I start swiveling my head around scanning for rabbit holes.
All I can tell you is that when I hear someone in the hallway espousing the need to pursue perfection I start swiveling my head around scanning for rabbit holes.
All I can tell you is that when I am in a meeting and someone is discussing both differentiation and perfection I don’t swivel my head, I just sigh, because I know I am already in a rabbit hole.
That is business … and rabbit holes.