Seth Godin‘s latest book, Linchpin, tries to convey the message that to become indispensible one has to be many things but one definitely needs to: Be remarkable
An aspect of being remarkable is to be able to do something that is much better and yet quite different from the norm. To be remarkable you have to be able to complete a task, achieve a goal, make a report or sell a product, but by doing it in a different way.
Saying that you need to be different is easy but doing it is hard.
You need to be able to have the right skills to do that job, you need to know enough about what you are doing and you need to think a lot about the problem that you are solving. And even after you have put in the effort to do all that, there is no guarantee that you will be able to do it differently.
Why is it that difficult to be different and yet better?
To be able to come up with a better solution or better results, you put in a significant amount of time learning about what is it that you are doing. You speak to people, you look at what they have done, you read previous reports and you browse through old examples. Your mind understands the pattern, makes the connection and with repetition it strengthens those connections. You have now learnt the skills necessary to tackle this problem.
This exact process of learning to do your job is what makes it hard to be different. Think about it for a moment. You spent all that time to learn the skills by looking at other people, seeing examples of what has worked and understanding the process that went in to doing that. You have created a bias towards what the possible solutions to your problems can be. You might not have had the aim to acquire that bias, but you have.
To be different: you need to overcome that bias
The easiest way to do that is to forget all that you have learned. Overcoming bias is hard but forgetting something isn’t that hard. If you put in the conscious effort of forgetting particular things, you eventually can. Forget those particular examples that you came across and forget those exact conversations that you had with people about the problem. Forget them to the extent there is just a vague memory of all those things. That does not mean that you are also forgetting the skills to do what you ought to do but merely those singular examples that have helped you gain those skills. Now you revisit your problem. Give it a lot of thought, make use of your pattern recognition skills, apply the art that you learnt, explore the many possible solutions and choose the best one.
You can be different and better, but you must really want to be
There is no guarantee that having done the hard work of overcoming biases will give you a different solution, but this time around the chances of coming up with a different solution are much higher. That’s because you have gone beyond the sea of solutions that your biased mind had restricted you to and you have now a much larger pool to choose your path from.