Dare to be different to create your own space

 By Somali K Chakrabarti

 If you don’t have a competitive advantage, don’t compete.            -Jack Welch

Competitive Advantage quote

In a tough market crowded with multiple sellers, only those with a distinct competitive advantage can survive. This holds good not only for businesses, but also for individuals. What renders you a competitive advantage is your ability to be different than others in a way that you stand out of the crowd.

Dare to be different

Who Did You Notice?

Competitive strategy

Competitive strategy is about being different.  ~ Michael Porter

Being different allows you to create your own space rather than vie for a slice of the same pie.

But being different is not just enough. It is easy to be weird or try gimmicks to be different. What differentiates you from others is your ability to be consistently perceived as being better than others. This is possible only when you have a unique value proposition.

Be Consistently Better

Here is what Steve Jobs said:

Steve Jobs quote

 I don’t think its good that we’re perceived as different. I think i’s important we’re perceived as much better. If being different is essential to doing that, then we have to do that, but if we could be much better without being different that’d be fine with me. I want to be much better!  ~ Steve jobs

Be prepared to learn and unlearn

In order to be different you have to be prepared to learn and unlearn faster than others, and translate the learning quickly into action.

Learn and Unlearn

The ability to learn faster than your competitors may be only sustainable competitive advantage. ~ Arie de Geus


If the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is in sight. ~ Jack Welch

Being different from others involves considerable risk

To be different you have to let go of certainties, and be prepared to embrace uncertainties.

Stand out

It takes nothing to join the crowd. It takes everything to stand alone.  ~ Hans F Hansen

As much as being different is fraught with risk, it is a risk worth taking, if you can afford to do so. However, people are mostly afraid of taking risks.

The tolerance for failure tends to go down, as people move up the career ladder. Successful people on the top often don’t like taking risks because they don’t want to be known for anything that they failed at. Management incentives are mostly tied to the success of their initiatives, so many a times leaders are afraid of trying new things as they don’t want to be seen as people who created a failed project.

When people are afraid of trying new things, it curbs innovation.

Nothing new will ever be created if people do not take risks. You may fail or you may succeed but the effort is worth taking because :

Risk of doing nothing

The risk of doing nothing is the greatest risk of all.  ~ Proverb

So, if you are different, dare to be different and carve out your own niche.

A special thanks to Maniparna Sengupta Majumdar for reminding me of the Bengali song “Jodi tor daak shune keu na aashey tobe ekla cholo re” written by Rabindranath Tagore, which urges you to make your way alone even if no one responds to your call.


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19 thoughts on “Dare to be different to create your own space

  1. Very well written. Most of us are afraid of trying anything new and continue to play safe with the fear of losing if we try anything new. Our children are also brought up with the same philosophy. It’s time we allow some creative thoughts and be open to new ideas.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Bhudeb Chakrabarti Kolkata 25 December 2014
    You have skilfully tackled the issues of being different and taking risks in our ventures so that innovations are not curbed .Nicolas Copernicus( 1473- 1543 ) put forward the theory of the Earth rotating daily about its axis and annually about the Sun .His theory had a hostile reception as it challenged the ancient thinking of the Earth as the centre of the Universe . An excellent Blog .

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Somali,

    I want to take your first few lines and express a slightly modified point of view, with the help of an example. You write..

    “In a tough market crowded with multiple sellers, only those with a distinct competitive advantage can survive. This holds good not only for businesses, but also for individuals. What renders you a competitive advantage is your ability to be different than others in a way that you stand out of the crowd.”

    I will modify this slightly by saying that in a crowded market with multiple sellers, you may well survive without a competitive advantage, but your GROWTH will be severely inhibited unless you are able to distinguish yourself somehow.

    For instance consider your roadside vegetable market – each seller is running an individual business and together they present us the picture of a tough market crowded with multiple sellers. They are so crowded together that at times they have to outshout their neighbor in order to catch the attention of the customer.

    All of us surely frequent such markets. I would be willing to bet that each one of us “prefers” one seller out of the many undifferentiated sellers in such a market. Isn’t that true? Everyone is selling more or less the same vegetables at about the same price. Yet we prefer to buy from a specific seller. Have you ever wondered why?

    Further if you observe more closely, you will find that a few sellers attract more customers than others. The reasons may not be hard to find if you are willing to spend some time and observe.

    And finally if you observe these sellers long enough, you will find that those who attract only a few customers do manager to survive, BUT the ones that attract more customers on average are the only ones that are able to GROW their business over a period of time.

    And therein lies the benefit of competitive advantage. It is a high sounding management term no doubt, but its effect can be observed just about anywhere, including your local vegetable market!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Abhijit for illustrating this so nicely.I completely take your point that without a competitive advantage, which means that unless the sellers have something distinct about them they may still survive in a competitive market, but the growth will be severely inhibited..


  4. Excellent post!
    Competitive advantages give a company an edge over its rivals and an ability to generate greater value for the firm. It’s same for an individual or a SME also. Sustainability of the competitive advantage is key to make it more difficult for competitors to neutralize the advantage. There are two main types of competitive advantages: comparative advantage and differential advantage. Comparative advantage is basically the cost advantage. A differential advantage is created when a firm’s products or services differ from its competitors and are seen as better than a competitor’s products by customers.
    Innovations always carry risks. Just how risky an innovation proves to be depends in great measure on the choices people make in using it. All innovations change the trade-off between risk and return. To minimize risk and unintended consequences, users, companies, and policy makers alike need to understand how to make informed choices when it comes to new products and services.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks sir for highlighting the two types of competitive advantages that businesses can have; namely the Cost Advantage and the Differential Advantage.
    The other important thing that you have pointed out is the need to have framework in place that help us to make informed choices so that we can gauge and minimize the risks that come along with trying out new things.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. However, most of the time you will find that there are five stages of innovations:

      1 People deny that the innovation is required.
      2 People deny that the innovation is effective.
      3 People deny that the innovation is important.
      4 People deny that the innovation will justify the effort required to adopt it.
      5 People accept and adopt the innovation, enjoy its benefits, attribute it to people other than the innovator, and deny the existence of stages 1 to 4.

      And just quoting:

      “Throughout history, people with new ideas — who think differently and try to change things — have always been called troublemakers.” ― Richelle Mead, Shadow Kiss

      Liked by 1 person

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