Questions, Uniqueness...(and life the universe and everything!)
One of my favourite books of all time is The Hitch Hikers Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams. There are four books in the complete story. If you're on the right humour frequency it's a great laugh and it came to mind particularly recently.
The Right Question...
In the story (and I'm not ruining it for you if you want to read the book as there's plenty more to laugh at...) people were struggling with the answer to the question of "life the universe and everything."
A huge computer named Deep Thought was built to help them figure it out. It took several years to come up with an answer. When it finally did, the computer warned the people that they wouldn't like it! Despite this, the crowd wanted to know anyway. To which Deep Thought revealed that the answer to life the universe and everything was........"fourty two!"
To which everyone said "What..?"
The computer went on to explain that the people didn't really understand the question, did they?
(.....and that's as much of the story I'll share at this point).
Now, I've no doubt that you're wicked smart at what you do, but here's my concern....we are often channeling that talent on the wrong thing! We're working very long and very hard on the wrong question. In fact if we're not careful, quite literally years can go by without the progress we would expect, given our efforts.
Questions determine what we focus on, what we focus on determines our results!
I believe one of the key characteristics of leadership is to be able to ask great questions. If you're responsible for the company's direction a key part of your job - probably the most important part - is asking the right questions and then assembling enough smart ninjas to help figure out the answers.
Take a tip from the story above. Poor question = Poor answer!
Better is Hard, Unique is Golden...
Ok if you're with me so far then you may be asking "what's a good question to focus on?" One of the best to be constantly looking at, is the question of what makes you unique.
If you try and be better - faster, cheaper, higher quality - than other providers it's very tough to sustain. There is always someone who can claim they're faster, cheaper etc. It's very hard to hang on to that position in the mind of the customer.
Being unique is much easier to sustain and can drive momentum for years to come. If you hire the same people, price your product the same, chase the same opportunities, you'll look the same and often your margins will suffer. Uniqueness deflects direct comparison and offers you a path to profitability.
Does uniqueness take time to achieve. Yes!
In unique companies there are often a lot of processes going on behind the scenes that help them appear different to everyone else. But if you're up for the challenge and are prepared to keep asking the right questions it can keep you ahead for years to come.
My very best and keep Scaling.