To Outperform: Learn from Anomalies

learn from anomalies

Illustration by Christian Laborin

Recently, I’ve been giving a series of conferences at INIDE University on technological trends, Future-Proofing, the future of work, how to keep pace with technology and orient ones company to compete in the Next Economy.

One of the main questions that kept coming up is that of bench marking against ones competition. Here’s my take on this…

If your goal is to be just as good as everyone else in your industry, then you should benchmark against them. If you’re an innovator, that is not your goal. To an innovator, bench marking is stupid. Sure, inspiration comes from anywhere and you can learn from anyone, but the only reason to do it is to learn what not to do from others in the industry.

People and companies from your industry adopt the same practices and have the same beliefs as to what drives success in the industry. So, you won’t learn anything new from them; just more of the same. There is more to learn from companies doing interesting things that are outside your industry.


Because everyone in the same industry is blinded by expertise and suffers from the curse of knowledge.

Innovators widen their view of competition

Innovators certainly look at their competition, but they don’t obsess about them. Rather, they widen their view to examine those who have the ability to exceed or redefine people’s expectations; and those can be found in any domain.

To outperform and make a leap, you need next practices. And you’ll only find inspiration for those by shifting your perspective and looking in other boxes that don’t look and operate like your own. You want to learn from people and companies who are 10x times better at something than merely being just a little better.

To achieve such radical performance, these people and companies don’t look and operate in a normal way, they go beyond business-as-usual to redefine their respective industries, products and services.

Innovators are obsessive and inspired by anomalies

For example, the founders of Commerce Bank didn’t look for inspiration from others banks; rather from Target, Starbucks and Best Buy. Their strategy was called “retailtainment” for a reason, they sold the same products and services as others banks but did so in their own unique way.

A little obsessive? It’s exactly what it takes to be great and outperform.

You want to learn and adapt from companies that are obsessive about a very particular thing and base their strategy on being the most at that particular thing; anomalies. As Bill Taylor says about benchmarking: Strategies and practices that are routine in one field can be revolutionary when they migrate to another field.

It’s called lift and shift, and it’s one of the most powerful tools in the innovator’s quivver.

Bottom line: Don’t let what you know limit what you can imagine. Look and learn fromr anomalies that don’t operate in a normal way, that go beyond business-as-usual to redefine their respective industries, products and services.

Also published on Medium.