Employment law attorney Michael Maslanka reviews the book Different: Escaping the Competitive Herd: Succeeding in a World Where Conformity Reigns but Exceptions Rule by Youngme Moon.
Different: Escaping the Competitive Herd by Youngme Moon has turned out one of the best-written business books I’ve read in a long time. Her big idea: Companies compete by imitating each another. The more they compete, the more alike they become. Example: McDonald’s offers fancy coffee; Starbucks offers breakfast. As companies ape one another, the products they offer become more of a commodity, meaning the price that can be charged goes down, not up.
Moon nails it when she discusses the mentality of the average consumer: “Once consumers realize that all airlines offer frequent flier programs, that all detergents offer enhanced stain-fighting, that all companies offer good warranties, they have less reason to be picky in their selections.” She says that the remedy is to make a consumer’s expectations irrelevant. Provide them an alternate reality, not the expected one. Look at Google — it didn’t clutter its home page; it kept it clean. Ikea tossed the traditional idea of home delivery and turned customer expectations on their head by providing a beautiful showroom (not massive warehouses), on-site childcare, and a cafeteria that serves excellent Swedish meatballs for less than the price of a Big Mac.
Moon has produced a wonderful, extraordinarily well-written book. She makes an interesting point at the end, stating that nobody knows “the way.” Why? Because we’re dealing with human beings. She writes:
I’ve decided it’s not that the truth is elusive, it’s that it is liquid. It comes at you from all sides, swinging at you from every possible angle. What this means is that the danger for the scholar is not in confusing what is true with what is false, it’s in allowing yourself to get seduced into thinking that’s it’s possible to be definitive about anything. Because when it comes to human behavior, the truth is more expansive than that. When it comes to human behavior, the truth is an ocean.
Michael Maslanka is the managing partner of Ford & Harrison LLP’s Dallas, Texas, office. He has 30 years of experience in litigation and trial of employment law cases. He is the editor of Texas Employment Law Letter, and he also authors the “Work Matters” blog for Texas Lawyer.