Leaders recognize “uniquely better.”

Being the best is great, it means you’re number one. But being unique is greater because you’re the only one. ~Anonymous

Not just unique, but uniquely better. That was Andy Stanley’s topic at the recent Global Leadership Summit. I always enjoy listening to Andy Stanley. His keen insights coupled with practical application leave me walking away with ideas, strategies, and concepts I’m anxious to implement the next day. Following is my quick summary of the insights I gleaned from Stanley’s presentation earlier this month.

What is uniquely better? Consumers/customers know what it is, but it’s being done in a unique/different way. It’s not about creating a new category (i.e., Blue Ocean Strategy); it’s about doing something uniquely better than the competition.

Both words are important. It may be easy to come up with something unique/different. But is it really better?

Stanley says, “Our best hope and responsibility is to create organizational cultures that recognize, not resist, uniquely better.” Discovering uniquely better is virtually impossible. But recognizing uniquely better is much more likely. Stanley provides four ways to create a culture to recognize uniquely better.

  1. Be a student not a critic. We tend to naturally resist what we don’t understand or can’t control. When we start criticizing, we stop learning.
  2. Keep your eyes and mind wide open! The “next generation” product or idea never comes from the previous generation. We need to listen to outsiders (outside our organization, outside our industry, outside our generation) because they aren’t bound by our assumptions. Closed-minded leaders, close minds.
  3. Wow ideas to life, don’t how them to death. When someone says “How?” when a new idea is suggested, the idea dies. Leaders don’t gain anything if they don’t know what people are dreaming about. So when someone suggests a new idea, respond first with “Wow!” not “How?”
  4. Ask the uniquely better questions. Ask the questions and then give candid answers.
    1. Is this unique?
    2. What would make it unique?
    3. Is it better?
    4. Is it better…really?

Uniquely better will come along for every industry. Because somebody, somewhere, is messing with the prevailing model. The question is, will you (and your organization) be positioned to recognize it? Here are a few examples that come to mind that could be organizations who were positioned to recognize uniquely better.

Is Starbucks coffee uniquely better?

Are Apple products uniquely better?

Is Amazon a uniquely better way of shopping?

Is Uber uniquely better than a taxi?

Is an ice bucket challenge a uniquely better way to fundraise?

Is your culture ready to recognize uniquely better, or will it pass you by and will your organization be left behind?