Capitalist Note: Throwing a couple of talent/business lessons I was reminded of as I watched the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament this year. March Madness has something for all of us.
Sometimes it's better to zig when others are zagging from a strategy perspective. Here's something I was reminded of via March Madness:
--Uniqueness wins because it's hard to prepare for. Whether it's hoops or business, being different from others means you're hard to prepare for. Syracuse deploys a defensive scheme called the 2-3 zone while most other schools use a man-to-man approach. That means they are hard to prepare for, which was a key in them knocking off one of the tourney favorites in Michigan State. When you have a strategic or tactical plan that's different than your competitors and the talent to pull it off, your organization will get unexpected wins - simply because you look and feel different from others.
Of course, the decision to look and feel different from your competitors isn't an easy one. It's much easier and safer from a career perspective to be a "fast-follower", which means you go with the crowd and try to be acceptable to the largest percentage of clients/prospects/whoever you're trying to gain the interest of.
The old saying that my bosses had back in the day was that "no one ever got fired for buying IBM". No one ever got fired fast for looking like everyone else either - because looking like everyone else is the acceptable thing to do. Of course, the key there is no one ever got fired fast. You'll get fired for being a fast follower if results ultimately don't follow.
So the big question is - how are you going to get results? By looking like everyone else or doing something differently?
Syracuse uses a freaky 2-3 zone to be different. It rose up at the right time and provided the advantage needed to take down a March Madness favorite.
Are you like everyone else or do you have a differentiator up your sleeve when you need it most?