“We are living in a world where ordinary is not an option,” said Bill Taylor, writer, speaker, entrepreneur and co-founder of Fast Company. “You can’t just be a little bit better or a little bit different.”
Speaking at a recent industry event he added, “The only way to stand out from the crowd is to stand for something special.”
He said that it is the job of leaders to help their companies “be the only one who does what you do.” He challenged the audience to answer two key questions: What do you deliver that only you can deliver? What are you prepared to do for customers that other organizations can’t or won’t do?
While he admits that these are hard questions to answer, he believes that one of the first jobs of a leader is to convince his colleagues that we are in a world where playing it safe is the most dangerous position to be in.
“Change will happen when people understand that trying something new is less dangerous than clinging to what we have already done,” he said.
He cited examples of companies that have done this like Umpqua Bank that set out to create a banking experience that connects with all five senses. He said the company made changes to achieve its goal because they wanted to change the conversation they were having with their customers and to avoid competing on price.
“Successful companies exude clarity of ideas about what makes them tick and about why those ideas are relevant to the customer,” he explained.
He also talked about Quicken Loans and how it wanted the focus to be on its culture rather than its technology. “The reason they are so good at delivering innovation,” according to Treacy, “is because they think carefully about what it means to be a great colleague and how they make sure everyone is moving in the same direction.”
Ultimately, he said, “The best leaders are the most insatiable learners.”
And he reminded the audience, “The future is rarely created by people who don't themselves believe in the future. It is created by highly motivated people who believe something very much or want something very much.”
He ended his presentation by reminding attendees, “There is no success without setbacks.” Leaders need to get comfortable with trying lots of things, most of which will not work and he suggested that companies stop punishing people who try new ideas that don’t work. “There have been too many missed opportunities because people are afraid to go out on a limb.”