Play Bigger: How Rebels and Innovators Create New Categories and Dominate Markets challenges the notion that to make it in the business world, you just have to have the best product. In today’s world, what you actually may need to do is create a whole new category, and dominate it over time – think Uber, Google, Amazon. Here, the authors explain how to present yourself using the same fascinating principle so it can be applied to your life and career, as well.
For companies, we say that a category king takes most of the economics in the category. We’re pretty sure the same happens in different ways on a personal level. If you build a reputation as the go-to person to solve a particular problem, you will be much more in demand than the runner-ups. You may be asked to fill critical leadership opportunities, or be first to be called in to fix a big problem.
The best way to start a category and make yourself its king is to find a problem you can solve, concisely define it, and make sure others see it as you see it. Chances are good that others will begin to see you as the person who can make the problem go away.
1. Find what you’re best at
Begin by identifying a new need that your skills will let you solve, or identifying a skill that you have and find a need. And when thinking about your personal category strategy, always remember different versus better. When you seek to be better at something, you are moving into someone else’s territory, always fighting for attention and having to prove that you’re better. But when you seek different, you aren’t climbing someone else’s ladder—you’re building your own ladder and putting yourself on the top rung.
2. Develop your point of view
Here’s where you put yourself on the psychologist’s couch. In the process of category design, one of the most important exercises for a company is working out its POV. This work involves a deep dive into a company’s psyche, exploring questions about why this company exists and what it wants to do for the world. Putting yourself through a POV exercise can be incredibly clarifying. Ask:
- How do you define who you are and what you want to mean to the world?
- How do you want people to see you?
- What’s the problem you can solve, and your way of solving it?
Hone your answers until it sounds like a presentation—so that if you had ten minutes to sell yourself, you could go through your POV and anyone would get you.
3. Condition the market
Great category designers condition the market so it has the same aha moment the company had. It must be conditioned to accept you. No one knew why they needed an iPhone until Apple showed them. Remember all those “There’s an app for that!” commercials? That was Apple’s way of conditioning the market to understand the problem, and see the iPhone as the solution.
You’re not likely to air commercials about yourself, but there are plenty of ways to condition the market. At work, it might be a report to key superiors, or a presentation to colleagues, or the way you present yourself on LinkedIn or Twitter. And if you’ve developed a strong POV, you will have a message that will be clear and ring in people’s heads. After all, you’re trying to rearrange synapses in people’s brains so they can’t help but see the problem you define, and think of you as its solution.
Adapted from Play Bigger by Al Ramadan, Dave Peterson, Christopher Lochhead and Kevin Maney.