This week i started reading Different by Youngme Moon. I’m about halfway through and really enjoying it.

I first heard about Professor Moon when I heard her speak at the 2010 Business of Software conference (a very important event for me).

Her basic point is that competing on the same BS marketing language everybody else uses (“new and improved!”) makes everybody the same – and the way to stand out is to be different … so STOP DOING THAT. Instead of trying to fix your weaknesses (or lie about them), focus on your real strengths.

As an example, think about Ikea – they’ve never shied away from their weaknesses compared to other furniture stores, yet their customers actually stick up for them concerning those weaknesses:

  • Their furniture is shoddy (“who wants to keep furniture longer than 5 years anyway?”)
  • The have few stores, so I have to drive far (“it’s an adventure!”)
  • I hate assembling it (“I hate waiting for deliveries even more”)

It’s very rare that a strength can exist without a corresponding weakness – everything is a tradeoff – so if you want the marketplace to embrace your strengths, you better be willing to embrace your weaknesses, too. I’ve always said for individuals that our strengths and weaknesses point to two sides of the same coin. Apparently, it’s true for organizations as well.

Even though we don’t have a whole lot of competition at Moraware, we still have a distinct perception in the marketplace … I want to understand better what that perception is so we can do what Professor Moon suggests: lean into our strengths and double down on them. Instead of trying to shore up our weaknesses (real or perceived), embrace them. It’s better to be something real with strengths and weaknesses instead of some bland caricature that stands for nothing.

This isn’t the easiest thing to examine, and I’m not the only stakeholder here – but my first take at our biggest strengths and corresponding weaknesses would be something like this:

  • Strengths: No-nonsense, stable, straightforward
  • Weaknesses: Unresponsive, slow to change, incomplete

I don’t know exactly what to do with that yet, but I think it’s true (at least as a perception of us it’s true). Our best qualities have predictable weaknesses as tradeoffs.

What about you? What are your organization’s strengths and corresponding weaknesses? How are you going to lean into those? Let me know in the comments or on twitter.

2 thoughts on “Different

    1. pfoley Post author

      Thanks! The hardest part is that it’s SO tempting to focus on your weaknesses and try to shore them up, but it’s probably better to focus on your strengths. That’s a real change in mindset. Good to hear from you 🙂


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