Friday, June 16, 2006

Be remarkable or not....

Seth Godin has a few books on it. The purple cow, the big moo, etc. Tom Peters thinks it is inevitably change or die. Guy Kawasaki has his own spin on it. They all speak their own version of the truth.*
They all have very specific ideas on how to build a lasting brand/product/company/legacy.

In the current incarnation of the technology industry it revolves a lot around ajax, folksonomies and few other terms lay people hardly use or think is rather silly**. The term "beta" has been redefined by Google to mean "non supported but feature rich product that will scale very well", specifically in the context of web based software and typically consumer software (as opposed to enterprise software).

This is all good. This is innovation and this is progress that is pushing the industry in new areas. But it is good to keep in mind that the core qualities of "being remarkable", "create/sustain/defend value in your customer's life through your product" and "either adapt to the changing market or die" are not about trying to join the herd and duplicating other's successes. Being remarkable is a lot about purposely not duplicating an older established success mechanism.

The bell curve is a ruthless arbitrator. Hang in there with me as I try to explain my thinking.

The nouveau management thought process is all about value on the edge (which i agree with btw). A lot of the speakers try to steer you away from the fat middle portion of the bell curve where all the products look identical and compete similarly. Seth Godin talks a lot about being bold, taking risks, not being afraid to fail, i.e. being in the 3rd standard deviation set apart from 95% of the population. He is right.

Which is why, it makes it all the more interesting when you run into success stories that fall into the outer 5% of people who are very successful and whose story line does not involve copy, paste and tweak. It does involve being remarkable but in an non obvious way. Here is a story about a single man who built a so-so dating site, watched it take of and is making 5-6 million/year on adwords.
The best part is, his website is not at all hip in the web2.0 sense of stuff. Isn't that sweet? Of course he rode a great wave, so trying to replicate him would be a foolish thing to do and that is exactly the point.

Being remarkable is not about studying remarkable people endlessly. It is about learning enough to realise that being remarkable is a lot about questioning things, taking risks and enjoying the essence of being remarkable more than the success it might bring.


* obviously there are a lot more names such as Tara Hunt, Kathy Sierra, Doc Searls, Umair Haque, Scoble, Jeff Jarvis who all tweak this theme a little differently.

** I work in a non software company and I had a hard time convincing my peers that a serious software could have the name 'wiki'

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