Monday, March 16, 2009

Differentiation - A Necessary Ingredient in the Recipe for Success

I've always been a big advocate of differentiation. Both as a principle for individuals and organizations. Differentiation answers the question: "Why should we pick you?" and is a lead in for all the important questions and actions that follow. What key characteristics is it that makes "you" worth the attention of your audience? What qualities of your products or services makes them interesting or noteworthy? Why should we pick you?

Many business leaders subscribe to the idea that competition brings out our best performance. Some will even go as far as competitively ranking (by percentile) and categorizing employees. The top 20% make the A group, the super stars. The next 70% are the B group, the vital work force engine. The final C group are "mismatched", and depending on the aggressiveness of the firm, may be reprimanded, retrained or might not be employed for much longer. While such aggressive behaviour is debated by both advocates and detractors of differentiation, people who are in sales roles will know the value of being aware of the dynamics (even if they choose not to participate). And sales roles doesn't just encompass building customer relationships to eventually lead to the consumption of your products or services, but also the sale of ideas to colleagues or projects to upper management etc.

In a world with shrinking resources, global competition in all markets and increasingly skilled workers, the ability to sort out and match requirements must keep pace with the needs of the organization or consumers (whether they are individuals or corporations).

's to 's

This is particularly notable in a weak economy, when many people make small realizations that "paper towels are just paper towels" and slowly start to adopt "inferior" (in the economic income elasticity sense of the word rather than quality) goods versus "normal" goods. Differentiation on brand alone isn't good enough any more. Now that people don't have the financial exuberance they previously had, corporations must work extra hard to pull out that extra couple of cents from the consumer's marginal propensity to consume.


Tammy said...

i've been asking myself that question for the last 2 weeks (since starting my job) and I have yet to find a good answer. :S

Joshua Wong said...

I think we should always be asking ourselves this, both in our career development and our work.

You've just started. Let me know who things progress, the company you are working for in HK / China sounds pretty interesting. Give it some time :)