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Ever ask your doctor, “Is that normal?” I bet you didn’t get a straight answer.That’s because there’s no such thing as normal, only the fat part of the bell curve for a particular factor or condition. Still, you’re probably better off if you fall within that range.
The same is true in society. There is no normal, only what’s viewed by the majority as acceptable behaviour at the time. It’s subjective. Nevertheless, you’ll probably have an easier time getting along with folks if your behaviour isn’t too deviant.
But in the always fascinating world of business and management, it’s a whole different story. There, it’s bad to be normal. No, I’m not talking semantics. I’m talking about the meaning behind the word, synonyms like usual, regular, average, typical, and common.
When you're setting up management systems, operating procedures, processes, whatever, you're never interested in normal practices; you want best practices
Is typical customer service ever the goal or metric? Of course not.
We want great customer service and much higher levels of customer satisfaction than industry average.
Looking to fill a key position? Are you looking for someone of average intelligence? How about innovation, expertise, ethics, or communication skills?
Whatever the critical search criteria or position, I guarantee you're looking for the cream of the crop.
Do product managers want their products to be typical, just checking all the boxes the same as everyone else?
No way. Everything's got to be faster, higher performance, thinner, lighter, more feature rich than the competition.
Need innovative research and development people? Do you think Apple or IBM look for common engineers or those who are the best at what they do?
So what if they're a little odd, a bit quirky, not your typical run-of-the-mill geek? People who excel rarely are normal. Quirky sort of comes with the territory.
Are we ever interested in average market share for our products and services? Of course not.
We want to be the leader with dominant market share. Even number two means far lower profit margins than the category leader.
Nobody wants business leaders, executives, entrepreneurs, or CEOs to conform or be typical. We want them to be extraordinary, special, one-of-a-kind.
What board of directors wouldn't want a unique, dysfunctional CEO like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, or Larry Ellison? Even those who seem normal on the surface, like Mark Hurd, well, aren't.
When you're researching third party vendors, do you want a typical PR or advertising agency or one of the best?
I mean, would you ever want a common PR or ad campaign? How about law firms? Is average legal counsel ever acceptable?
Do companies ever want a typical adoption or growth rate for a new product?
Don't be ridiculous. They want a phenomenal, viral product adoption rate.
Mediocre sales people don't open doors or close deals. Average negotiators don't cut it. Period.
You know I can go on and on with this. Sure, there are a few notable exceptions like manufacturing and quality. So normal isn't bad in all cases. But for the most part and in every way that matters, normal is not acceptable.
And yes, I know that not everyone or every product can be exceptional. But if we don't look for the best, we'll never find it. Come to think of it, if you shoot for normal, you know what you're likely to get? That's right, the wrong end of the bell curve.
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