There has been well-chronicled commentaries about the life span of new businesses and how fast things change. A large amount of startups will not last more than five years, much less a year.
Most people have also worked at their job for less than five years. So employment survival in one place is sparse as well. Chances are you will not survive your business or your job if you are the norm.
My take is that a large part of failure happens because you are in the norm. If there is nothing special about you then you will not be in demand. Someone who can do it more efficiently and cheaper will displace you. They may be younger and more wide-eyed. Both are assets these days. Being curious, able to learn and get things done quickly make even the average look like dinosaurs.
You aren’t going to create a Facebook 2 or beat out Google. There’s already a winner in those categories. Even offline, the world picks the winners. There’s only enough shelf space at your grocery store for a few brands of tea, hot dogs and soap. If you try to get into any of those games, you are committing business suicide. You would have to change the minds and habits of buyers as well as spend a lot of money on distribution and branding to get picked. Even then, it’s not about being better.
It’s About Being Different
Trying to compete on being better means you are playing the game according to the norms. People have already decided who won that game. It is in their minds and changing their mind is a difficult, almost impossible thing to do.
Lick is in the ice cream category, but they chose to be different. Tesla is going after a different crowd with a different mindset altogether. We are familiar with ice cream and cars, but to carve out a living and make an impact, it takes being different altogether.
This is what is happening in the new economy. We are offered choice and people are taking it more than ever. We don’t just buy off the rack. The internet is the rack where we can find a designer in Brazil if we wanted something different. The mainstream is getting splintered into many small niches because distribution has changed. So has talent. If you are a boring MBA that can merely analyze like the rest of them, then your stock is pretty low. Your homogenous lot just blended you in and commoditized you.
We have an opportunity more than ever to prosper. It won’t be in the norms. It’s going to be in the niches where there is less competition and the opportunity to connect with those that place a higher value than those that cannot recognize it.
So as you are thinking about your current position and your future moves, find narrow niches and dominate it for your own survival.