At a recent luncheon for my alma mater, Hampden-Sydney College, a statement was made by the speaker that should be taught in every university, every management class, every marketing class and heralded by every politician or leader. The speaker was one of my heroes – John Adams, Chairman of the Martin Agency – a legend in advertising. He said the school had for years been diluting or even hiding its most unique attribute – the fact that Hampden-Sydney is one of only two all male private colleges in the United States. He then pounded the podium and said something to the effect of, “Not anymore! We will be known as the school that is the expert in educating men!
We will take our uniqueness and make it our strength!
All male is who we are. It’s essential to the experience of attending Hampden-Sydney!” He then explained how the school was going to deepen that experience and clarify its purpose and benefits.
I find that there are multitudes of organizations that hide their uniqueness in a quest to fit in with the competition. “Me too!” can be heard echoing through the halls of most corporations. We benchmark, we go to industry conferences and talk to our reflections, we become like teenagers following the latest trends to be different but ending up all the same. Look inside and find your uniqueness. Find the benefits of that uniqueness and then tell the story of that uniqueness in a way that attracts your desired audience.
“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”
-Antoine de Saint-Exupery
In most organizations (companies, non-profits and governments) improvement is sought by adding complexity. More rules, more regulations, a more detailed employee handbook, more technology, an added process. But like most obese Americans’ arteries, adding more has just clogged things up. Often causing severe health issues. The problem of complexity is not solved by adding complexity. It is solved through simplification. But simplifying is rarely easy to do. We naturally tend toward more being better. But better comes from focus. And to focus you must simplify.