In a society which seeks an answer for almost everything, our brains have become accustomed to offering up a host of reasons or rationale as to why things happen – known as attribution.
Yet there are many things we get wrong.
In the business world, this can be crippling.
In sports, and football in particular, a close match could be decided with one kick of the ball in the last 10 minutes.
Yet, given our need to have answers, pundits will put together a whole narrative and rationale as to why the winning team triumphed over the other – painting one as the hero and the other as villain.
We idolise the approach of the winning team, and slate the approach of the losing team.
When we look at the case of Facebook, pundits might propose that Mark Zuckerberg thrived and others didn’t because he’s a genius, or he has an incredible team behind him.
Yet, many people are geniuses and many have great teams behind them.
What’s more believable, is to consider the scenario that there were 100 moving parts to social media competitors in the late 2000’s, and that everybody was competing on those same parts.
Mark Zuckerberg and his team managed to develop a product which for arguments sake was better on 53 out of the 100 components, putting it marginally ahead.
Being a fraction better was the difference between someone recommending the service to a friend or simply letting it pass them.
It’s about getting over the “virality” line. Creating a solution which is just “good enough” to spread.
In Peter Thiel’s book, Zero to One, it is said that one needs to create technology which is 10x better than what’s currently out there – and that anything less than that magnitude “will be hard to sell”.
For any entrepreneur starting off, unless you are sitting on a gold mine of money and talent, this is nearly impossible.
Do you think Mark Zuckerberg created a solution 10x better than Bebo simply from his bedroom?
No, Facebook was only just better in some departments than Bebo and MySpace, Google was only slightly better than Yahoo, Microsoft was only slightly better than IBM.
You only have to be marginally better (in a way that is different) for everyone to pick you.
Once you’ve achieved that, then you can capitalise on the momentum of growing revenues, and extend your gap and uniqueness to second-best.
Hence, being 10x better than the competition is more a result of being marginally better and is not a prerequisite to becoming the next big thing.
They say that nobody remembers those who came second. Should we?
Given that those who win are often fractionally ahead, and that there are so many variables to competition, you would be a fool to ignore the so-called ‘losers’.
Put it this way, no one set of staff are 10x better than any other.
Good ideas can be found everywhere, and you will find that the more you study and copy competitors, even those at the bottom of the table, the better your chances are of crossing that fine line.
Whether it’s a smart marketing blurb, a referral programme poorly executed, or a compelling founder’s story, there are many things you can assimilate and incorporate into your product.
So, remember that winners win by the margins – but, that’s all it takes. Don’t worry about being 10x better (at least at the start), just worry about being the one that everyone picks and will recommend.
As Marketing expert Shiv Singh of Visa describes:
“The purpose of a business is to create a customer who creates customers”.
If you can do that, and those behind you can’t, you’re on the right track.