Sometimes you trip across a book and you know right away that this is a book that will influence your conversations for a long time. Different: Escaping the Competitive Herd by award winning Harvard Business School professor Youngme Moon is that kind of book and a very intriguing read.
Well written in a style that is equal parts Malcolm Gladwell (full of surprising anecdotes that make her point) and Jim Collins (memorable insights into the underlying truths), it is easy to see why her course is one of the most popular in the school’s curriculum.
Different first sets the table in part 1 with an eye-opening look at how best practices and hyper-competition have produced “heterogeneous homogeneity” and “masters of a particular form of imitation. Not differentiation, but imitation (p. 13, Different).”
Moon continues in part 2 with a careful examination of the most compelling stories of the past two decades (think IKEA, Google, JetBlue, In-N-Out, Cirque du Soleil and Apple) and finds that “a disproportionate number of those stories, in category after category, could best be described as exceptions to the rule (p. 13, Different).” I’m certain you’re going to be fascinated and love insights like this one: “Google is a ‘reverse-positioned brand’ that ‘says no where others say yes. And they do so openly. Without apology (p. 110, ).'”
Moon introduces and develops three heuristics as she writes about reverse-positioned brands (like Google and IKEA), breakaway brands (like HBO and Cirque du Soleil), hostile brands (like the MINI Cooper and Red Bull). All three heuristics come into play as she uses them to describe what she calls an idea brand (Apple or Harley Davidson).
Part 3 “begins a conversation about a new way of thinking about competition generally, and competitive differentiation specifically (p. 15, Different).”
I think this is an important book for all of us. If you’re working to make a difference, you’ve got to keep in mind that “if you want to reach people no one else is reaching, you’ll need to do things no one else is doing (Craig Groeschel).” Step one might be to learn how to be different.