Be Different


There is without a doubt great benefit to having standards by which we operate and behave in both our business and personal lives. Without this nobody knows what to expect out of us. This should be pretty consistent. But there is an unannounced danger as well.

Blindly Following

The picture below reminds me of the story called the Pied Piper of Hamelin. As you will recall in the story the pied piper is hired to use his magic pipe to lead the rats out of the town. When the people refuse to pay him, he uses the same magic pipe to lure their children out of town. While this is just a story, it does illustrate a danger to commonality.


Just like the children in the story, in business and personal life we often automatically, as they say, “go with the flow”; that is we act and react like others do. In his book Influence – Science and Practice, Robert Cialdini spends considerable time discussing both the benefits and dangers of social proof. Social proof is really what these standards of behavior are. You might also call them social norms. In essence, we look to others to see what is expected of us. But, just like the pied piper we are sometimes prone to act in ways that are not in our best interest simply because it is the social norm.

The Danger

A number of years ago it was common for retailers to scramble to get in new malls. They committed significantly both financial and human resources to do so. In hind sight one has to wonder if they were over-committing to this one sales channel. As times have changed (partly from a long recession but also changing consumer taste), for many of these retailers the locations in major malls have become a drag on performance. People are now flocking to the smaller shopping centers to shop at lower priced stores. In addition, they have turned to online purchasing. Interestingly, a common thing for customers to do is to find what they like at one of the mall stores and then order it online from a lower cost provider. Did these retailers ever think to be different and chart a new course that would put them at an advantage in the future?

To see the danger, consider these questions. How many of these big retailers felt pressure to get in a new mall just because their competition was doing it? How have they let this tendency to follow the piper (other retailers) to the malls blind them to changes in both demographics and consumer tastes and as a result miss an opportunity?

A Key Question

When is it best to face the resistant to change and allow yourself to be different? By only going with the flow and being just like everyone else, there is a real risk of not recognizing the currents of change until it is too late.

What about your company? Are you still doing things the same ways because everybody else does or because it has always been done that way?

If you want to know more, contact AimCFO – Contact

As always, your comments are welcomed.


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