Strategically different

How purposefully not blending in is the essence of great strategic thinking.

In 2019, we travelled to Tokyo, Japan.

On the trip, we visited an exhibition by the Japanese artist Chiharu Shiota.

The artist uses wool and yarn on a huge scale to create unbelievable worlds that fill a room and have the power to leave you feeling totally overwhelmed by the experience of being encased by her creativity and dedication to her craft.

There is nothing else like it.

Her art wouldn't be to everyone's liking. For many the themes that she touches on are too dark, too disturbing, too self-deprecating and indulgent to be regarded as pleasurable or compelling.

She is however, one-of-a-kind - strategically different.

Chiharu Shiota is a great example of an artist who understands good strategy.

She is wildly different and unique in every way. Her work doesn't allow you to leave it without it touching you in some way; it intrinsically creates an emotional bond with the viewer forever.

The experience compels you to take pictures, to share the work with everyone you know. It has self-promotion literally build into its DNA. In the whole time that we were there, we didn't see one person who wasn't Instagramming the experience for all to see too.

Sadly, I'm 100% sure that I'll never in my lifetime see anything else like it ever again.

This is what great strategy is.

Strategy is not about following what everybody else is doing because it feels safer to be a part of a big crowd. It's not about following a well-trodden route based on an assumption that somebody else's approach may just work for you too.

Strategy is about taking a focused, bold, calculated, future-orientated position that makes you stand out...that sets you apart from everyone else.

Being strategically different to everyone else might make you feel more vulnerable and open you up to higher-levels of interrogation and judgment, but it's a far better position from which to build a true fanbase and command a higher premium for your offering than trying to get attention when stuck in amongst a crowd.

Giving yourself permission to be strategically different requires a mindset that either has a higher-level of self-confidence, or an augmented degree of stupidity and a detached attitude towards what other people think.

Both can be extremely useful.

As dangerous as it may seem, the guidance here is to not blend in.

If there are signals that some kind of blending is happening; stop what you are doing and either, find out what's happened to your self-confidence, or think deeply about who or what is keeping you from being your true self...keeping you thinking small...and get rid of them or it.