Make your own game

Here’s my latest post on @Oninnovation:  


The essence of strategy is choosing to perform activities differently than rivals do; and the most vital competitive weapon is not lower price, but new ideas.

Across the border in Mexico, we  have a taco shop in every corner. They all sell the same thing and their business name usually starts with the name of someone plus “tacos.”  It’s safe to say that their businesses all operate very much the same way; the only difference between them is where they get the meat and ingredients.

We live in a world of sameness, and the only way out of it is to innovate.

There are brave souls who choose to question the dominant logic of competition; who chose to do something entirely different. There is one taco shop in Tijuana which doesn’t follow conventional logic; it doesn’t sell tacos, but rather, art.

Tacos Salceados created what is known as the “Quesataco,” which starts with flakes of cheese spread across the flat iron stove. Your choice of cuts are then lined down the middle and then ultimately encased in the crisp golden cheese. The stuffed crisp cheese roll is then placed in a fresh thick tortilla, and topped with house dressings and avocado. The Quesataco later spawned other creations, such as shrimp tacos covered in a sweet tasting sauce.

It is this fresh perspective which makes it stand out among the rest of the taco shops.

The thing people forget when they compete, is that you must stand out in some manner. Too many people copy their competition too much. They assume if it is working for the competitor, then it will work for them. Passion for what you are doing, consistency, and a sprinkle of uniqueness is just the start. Sticking with it and always looking for that unique tweak is key.

Here are 4 ways to help you think about defeating sameness:

Purpose matters

Conventional logic says that businesses exist to make money. Why not exist to deliver meaning? The difference between you and competitors is nothing more than how you answer the ‘why’ of your intentions: Why are you doing this? Online retailer Zappos knows why they are in business; not to sell a lot of shoes, but rather to deliver the best customer service in a meaningful way.

Reset expectations

Your customers have interacted with your competitors, as well as with other businesses, and have an idea of what to expect. These same expectations will be put into play when they interact with you, and if you deliver the “same,” then you’ll be easily ignored. You must reset those expectations by going above and beyond the normal, delivering equal or more value in a faster, more convenient, easier and meaningful way.

Define yourself by what you know not what you do

Over the time your business has existed you have accumulated a portfolio of abilities and strengths. Think about these bundle of skills that you have accumulated over time, things that you are good at and that when combined provide new value to your customers. Stop looking at your company as a provider of specific products or services for specific markets, and start seeing it as a reservoir of skills and assets that can be exploited in different ways or different contexts to create new value.

Be something your competitors are not

In order to compete businesses follow the logic that they have to target the middle of the market, the mainstream consumers. This also means they configure their business just like competitors who are already ahead of them. The problem is that everyone else is going after the same market and with so many choices, so many brands, so much noise it isn’t enough to be good at everything. You have to be the most at something. What are you the most at? Are you the fastest? The most responsive? The most innovative? The most transparent? Look up field or downfield, go to the edges, to the extremes where you can be the most at something.

Key Takeaway: Compete differently and play the game you know you can win.

What do you think?

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