There is a phrase in my home that my teenagers hear all too often…”don’t be a sheep”. Personally, I fully support free-range kids and try to raise them to be capable of vast independent thought, revolutionary ideas and leading the next generation into a higher level of understanding. I want them to be unicorns reaching beyond their perceived limits and understand how extraordinary they are and not blindly follow the pack. Yet, their response is almost always “can I go hang out with my friends now?” along with a series of eye rolls.
It doesn’t matter if we are discussing children, ourselves, or the companies that employ us, we all want to be seen as unique, yet fit in with the pack. I am frequently asked “what do you see others doing in this space” or “how different are we than others you have worked with”. The reality is, each industry has very similar key performance metrics to measure operational, financial, and regulatory compliance. So if we are all measuring the same things, how do we turn ourselves from sheep into unicorns?
1. Discover what you’re made of, in other words, your data.
You are unique because of your data. It is who you are. No one else’s data is identical to yours or can glean the same answers. Take a good long look at it.
- What data is really in use on a daily basis to enable workflow? Is it enough? Too much?
- How good is it? The quality? The consistency?
- Where does your data come from? Internal or external sources? Do you control it?
- What’s missing? Does it meet your users’ needs? Do you even know?
2. Ask why you do what you do.
Unless you are a robot, you have your own way of doing things. While you and your comrades may be measuring the same KPIs, your experience, perception, and approach are individual to you and your business. Many a great hamburger joint was built on two pieces of bread and a patty of meat, just topped with special sauce, a new-fangled pickle or sesame seeds. Whether you come up with an original product or build a better mousetrap, examine why what you do makes you distinct.
- What drives you to do what you do? Passion? Money? Sense of duty?
- How much of what you do is habit? Repetitive? A duplication of efforts?
- Are there MUST do’s that you can’t avoid?
- How do you distinguish yourself from everyone else in the pack?
- What is your appetite for innovation?
3. Realize your value in order to cash the check.
You and your business both have monetary value. Regardless of industry, if you aren’t making money, you don’t stay in business, so figure out where your value truly lies.
- Can you capitalize on your approach in a new and innovative way?
- Where does your data tell you where you are headed? Can you predict and intervene before disaster strikes?
- How are you measuring your audience? Is your marketing successful? Do your clients “get” what you are doing?
- Are you building a brand or just doing business? Do you know the difference?
Without really looking at what you do and how you do it, it’s near impossible to identify opportunities to grow and innovate. Taking an introspective look at your data, your approach and your value can be a painful process and you may not always like the truths it unveils. However, the time it takes may be worth the effort when you find your own inner unicorn under all that wool.
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