Harvard strategy professor Youngme Moon’s Different: Escaping the Competitive Herd (2010) describes how many companies pursue the same opportunities that every other company is chasing and thus miss the same opportunities that everyone else is missing.
In category after category, companies have gotten so locked into a particular cadence of competition that they appear to have lost sight of their mandate—which is to create meaningful grooves of separation from one another. Consequently, the harder they compete, the less differentiated they become … Products are no longer competing against each other; they are collapsing into each other in the minds of anyone who consumes them.
Moon argues that the companies and brands that see a different game win big. Such innovators don’t just try to outcompete their rivals at the margin. Instead, they redefine the competitive landscape by embracing unique ideas in a world crammed with me-too thinking.
European airline Ryanair unleashed a new wave of relentless cost- and price-leadership by charging customers extra for everything beyond a seat itself. If you want to check a bag, you pay extra. If you want an airport agent to check you in and print your boarding pass, you pay extra. If you want food and drink, you pay extra. Later on, Spirit Airlines took the price-obsession further by charging for carry-on bags too. After a rough rollout and customer defiance, paying for carry-on bags has become the new normal.
Idea for Impact: Being different is what makes all the difference. If you do things the same way everyone else in your field does things, why would you expect to do any better? What are you doing to raise your game—not just to stay in place, but to get ahead?