Friday, July 15, 2011

Who Are You?

Who are you?

What makes you, you?

Perhaps it easier to start with what makes you not someone else? Not your mom or dad? Not your brother or sister? Not your friend or colleague?

Strike that. It's probably more effective to start with whom you're like. When marketing a product, a common rookie mistake is to start with how different the product is before establishing what the product is. Newbie marketeers will begin with, "Our product's not like anything you've ever seen before..."

This is problematic on two fronts:
First, it lacks credibility. Everything is at least a little bit like something else. Even if a new automobile has features never imagined, it's still an automobile and not a pillow or a bag of potato chips.

Second, without establishing a baseline for comparison, it's difficult for someone to understand why your touted differences are different. You say for example, "My new Wizard 3000 does thus and such!" and your audience (not knowing your basis for differentiation) responds, "Oh, umm, doesn't everything do that?"
So, the rule of thumb is: first establish parity and then differentiation.

Who are you like?
So, what five people are you most like? We're not talking about replication here; we're talking about shared characteristics. Not only that, but the characteristics you have in common might not be those you most appreciate. To make the question easier, let's drop "most".
Name five people whom you're like.
Let's see, for me that would include:
  1. my mom,
  2. my dad,
  3. Jonathan,
  4. Will, and
  5. Pete.
OK, that's my don't-think-about-it, just-say-it list. I'm chuckling as I look at it because these are five completely different people.

So, what's a characteristic I share with each of these folks.
  1. I'm a lot like my mom in that I have more artistic and creative ideas than I could ever possibly implement.
  2. I'm like my dad in my ability to easily transform large, complex problems into simple, structured solutions.
  3. I'm like Jonathan in that my level of inspiration increases with the size and complexity of the challenge and I don't need to "know" the answer to feel comfortable that I'll have it when I need it.
  4. I'm like Will in that I don't hesitate when opportunities emerge.
  5. I'm like Pete in that I'm endlessly curious about how things work.
So, how am I different? I think the short answer would be that none of these people share all the characteristics I've outlined above. My mom had ideas, but more often than not lacked the capacity to implement them. My dad can implement pretty much anything, but can't come up with the what, and so on.
So, how does each characteristic tell me who I am?
Good question.
I think it comes down to: how much would it change me not have that characteristic? For example, I believe that it's my creativity that results in my needing little sleep and having boundless energy. I have so many things I want to do that I'm never bored and endlessly excited. I'd say that being creative is definitely a cornerstone of who I am, and that to remove it would completely topple the building. Similarly, having inspiration that grows proportionally to the size of the challenge would be another cornerstone. Without that, I'd probably be a nervous wreck given all that I have going on.

So perhaps that's a good process in becoming clear on who you are.
  1. Quickly identify five people whom you're like
  2. For each person, call out a shared characteristic
  3. For each characteristic, determine how different you'd be were that characteristic to change or disappear.
  4. If it would make a big difference, keep it; if not, toss it.
  5. Repeat
That was fun. So, who are you?

Happy Friday,

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