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December 28, 2008

Taking the contrary view

"You are neither right nor wrong because the crowd disagrees with you. You are right because your data and reasoning are right." Benjamin Graham, legendary investor.

Everyone in finance knew that sub-prime mortgages were great for increasing profits, every western government knew we had beaten the boom-bust economic cycles of capitalism, and right now everyone knows that social media is the only effective form of advertising. 

Normally when everybody "knows" something, it is not worth knowing. It is a warning sign that there are other things nobody is looking at. 

Everybody knew MRP was the best way to manage inventory until Just in Time inventory management made it irrelevant. 

HTML was the leading form of web authoring until Google popularized Ajax, and all forums were anonymous until LinkedIn made them respectable for business professionals. 

In an industry that is ruled by commodities, (people delivering similar services and competing on price) you need to differentiate yourself. And if you are just saying and doing what everyone else is, but cheaper, then you are a face in the crowd.

What do your clients believe? What "conventional wisdom" is everyone else repeating endlessly? What is the other position and how can you stake it out? 

Don't cut costs, cut waste. Don't cut staffing stop the budget "leaks". Don't use 360 degree reviews, install continual assessment. Don't implement the Balanced Scorecard instead select four killer metrics that will drive short term performance improvement. 

If you are saying what everyone else is saying then it becomes a competition between functionalities, nuances and price. Data based opinions, based on sound reasoning, that differ from the crowd, will always get attention. Don't waste that opportunity.