What is Distinctiveness?
"Choosing to win a different race because it's the one you've set yourself up to win."
Added by Tricia Scott, March 2011.
It could be argued that a distinctive organisational identity is a tautology, since to have an identity is, by definition, to have characteristics that make an entity identifiably different from all other entities. And that is true whether the entities are people, organisations or places.
Identity (and therefore distinctiveness) is relative: defined in relation to other things. There are two important consequences of this. Firstly, there is a choice to be made as to which entities to compare with; and secondly, there is a choice to be made as to which attributes to compare.
As it is likely to make most sense to compare with similar organisations, there is paradoxically a need to look first at similarities rather than differences. This provides a context within which differences can be highlighted, but also the fact of belonging to a known category provides credibility – it is possible to be too different.
To then compare attributes on a more specific basis allows distinctiveness to appear. In the words of Michael Porter, "strategy is choosing to run a different race because it's the one you've set yourself up to win" (Porter, 1999).
Distinctiveness is about perspective too. Whose view of the organisation provides the 'truth' of its identity? In practice, the identity of an organisation as perceived by the people it wishes to attract to itself is the only one that really matters, since people behave based not on objective reality but on their perceptions of it. We'll look in more depth at perception of identity in the resources we add to the Distinct website throughout the project. But only you can find out what different perceptions of your organisation exist, and work out how to embed the ones that deliver what your organisation needs.
Topics: The case for change.