Different, by Youngme Moon, discusses how market competition creates a herd mentality amongst competitors and results in a wide array of very similar products. The more mature a market category, the less deviation there is. I see this in the learning management system (LMS) market. Basically, they’re all the same and currently all are adding “social” to the mix, as they try to keep up with each other.
Tim Kastelle, who writes on innovation, was also struck by what I would describe as the key graphic in the book. It shows what happens when you benchmark yourself against your competitors. Over time, everybody starts to look the same. A radical, and different, approach would be to emphasize your strengths and ignore, or even celebrate, your weaknesses.
The herd mentality is to keep up with the competition, but as the author writes, ” … if you’re looking for a unique solution, the last thing you should do is ask for a vote”. Youngme Moon describes three major types of idea brands that don’t try to compete: reverse, breakaway and hostile. Descriptions and examples are provided in this book filled with anecdotes from the professor at Harvard Business School.
Just being different is not enough for business success though. The difference has to have meaning, such as Harley Davidson creating a real community of bikers, numbering over a million. Difference has to resonate, not just be superficial.
I like the author’s approach in writing this book, as it reminds me of life in perpetual Beta or the process of blogging, where the final product never really gets out.
This book is very much a working draft, which is another way of saying that I have tried very hard to approach it with the same lack of self-consciousness that I feel if I were simply thinking out loud, on paper. I think I’ve gotten some of it right, but I’m sure I’ve gotten some of it wrong, too. It is a leaky, leaky boat, this book of mine.
This book is an easy read and different from many management books in the sense that it does not offer a specific formula for success. I would recommend Different for anyone working in marketing or product development. There are also many insights for entrepreneurs and freelancers.