Most companies just try to be better than competitors. But that means they’re playing someone else’s game by someone else’s rules – fighting for market share. In today’s winner-take-all digital economy, the company that defines and develops a new and different category dominates the category’s economics. You can name great companies that have done this: Amazon, Facebook, VMware, Airbnb, Apple. They all started as different. They all believed in something no one else could yet see.
Different wins fans, not just customers. It embeds in the biases in our brains and won’t let go. Different sticks. It outmaneuvers existing products and services by starting a new conversation. And new conversations catch the interest of analysts and media, stir chatter on social media, and get passed along in workplaces and bars.
Different lures the most imaginative talent. It creates a mission, motivating and aligning employees, partners, and community.
Good people love a good mission.
Different makes the right kind of investors want in. It increases a company’s value. It bolsters investment rounds and makes IPOs pop. It reinvigorates enduring companies.
Thinking different leads to innovation. It’s the way to find undiscovered opportunities. But different is one of the toughest things to do in business. In fact, just seeing what could be different is hard. Describing different is hard. Making others clearly envision what doesn’t yet exist is hard. Day-to-day is the enemy of different. The gravity of business pulls toward the familiar, away from different. New companies, growing startups, and big corporations all feel it in their own way. They get mired in better.
The best long to discover, create and build different.
But how can a company’s leadership team defy gravity and get to different? We have a way. It’s called Category Design.