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Sunday, 23 February 2014

REMARKABLE IS WHAT YOU SHOULD BE

  
How do you stand apart? How do you raise your own voice in a stadium of fanatics? How do you become remarkable, unique and indispensable in the world today? 

One of the most inspiring speeches of all time was less than 300 words and was delivered to a crowd that scarcely heard it due to the resounding noise all around. It went on to inspire millions around the world over the last 150 years. This was the stuff of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg address.    
Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address

I dare say that to be remarkable, simplicity and focus are key components. 

Very few people know Kia Silverbrook, the most prolific inventor in the world today. But all of us know about Thomas Edison, because of the centrality of his innovations to our everyday life.

Unless in their industry hardly many people know BASF the largest chemical company in the world, but all of us instinctively know the BMW marque. Why?  

Because being remarkable is not about competing with other people and fighting for scarce supremacy in a given field of operation.

Now more than ever, it is becoming evident that the senior management culture in modern organizations where cutthroat strategies aim to capture and dominate a market was an invention of the two world wars that infiltrated the business world.  While this approach, which ultimately awarded senior management with an “officer” at the end of one’s title, served us well in the last century. The competition pool has become a bloody red, with intense competition, and there is need for a new approach, a new way of strategizing. Being the best in a field is no longer good enough.

According to Blue Ocean Strategy, by W. Chan Kim et al, the way to get clarity and achieve focus in such a situation is through a process of asking pertinent questions, as a person and as a business, around what you need to create, raise (amplify), reduce or eliminate (i.e. C.A.R.E.) to make what you do remarkable and very different from what others are doing.

To go through this process calls for a lot of soul searching and self discovery, but it also calls for you to truly comprehend your clients. At the end of this process, you should be able to test if your strategy is both divergent from what others in your field are doing and also focused. After this process you should be able to summarize your strategy in less than 20 words.

In Purple Cow, Seth Gordin alludes to a focus and clarity needed in being remarkable, whereby instead of trying to please everyone, you focus your marketing effort on a niche market of those who will best understand and appreciate your effort.

Infuse the marketing effort in your product, by making sure that your niche market instinctively loves it to a point of wanting to evangelize it to their network of friends and associates. Let a word of mouth campaign; in today’s world of social media be the best tool for your remarkable product to a larger populace.   

A word of caution, being very good and being remarkable are totally different elements. As we speak, Google’s glass technology is remarkable, Apple’s most current iteration of an iPhone is very good. Remarkable is something worth noticing and different. To be outstanding in today’s world, to reach levels necessary for products coming out of our East African economies to be considered world class, we have to be remarkable.

Lionel Poilane
I conclude with a case study from Seth Gordin’s, Purple Cow that mentions the best baker in the world to illustrate the steps to being remarkable in your field of choice. The late Lionel Poilane, a second-generation French baker became obsessed with being remarkable. He extensively researched and interviewed thousands of French bakers about their techniques. He pioneered the use of organic flour in France.  He also refused to bake baguettes, terming them tasteless. He acquired the largest collection of bread cookbooks in the world and studied them extensively. He refused to hire established bakers, since they had too many bad habits to unlearn, he instead hired young men who were willing to apprentice with him for years. His acclaimed sourdough bread is simply made with just flour, water, starter and sea salts and is baked in a wooden-fired oven.  At first he was rejected and ridiculed by the French establishment. But the overwhelming quality of his sourdough loaves and his desire to do it right finally won them over. Now his establishment ships his bread all over the world, including all fancy restaurants in France, and makes millions of dollars in the process.

Article done for CIO East Africa December  2013 issue

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