I was catching up with a mentor and colleague a few days, and we got onto the topic of “better“. In his, as always interesting, view, it isn’t (just) “better” we should be chasing, per say, but “different”. He continued to explained that better suggest a binary, and zero-sum, view. Better implies the existing model is “worse”. Better implies we need to “get rid of the existing model” [to make room for the better one]. Whereas different impies, well… just that, different. Different does not require an anchor point in the status- quo, to validate its value. Better does.
It could be argued that better and different are inter-related. True. However, the real point here is, while better entails looking at the existing [models] and finding optimization points, different is unrestrained by the “existing”, and is open for divergent ideas of what a company’s strategy could be.
We consider the existing way things are done and try to make them more efficient, optimized… better. We ask ourselves: “How are/ can we be better than our competitors?” or “How can we better at… <insert name of business function>”. But if we want to differentiate, we need to be different.
Different plays more in the “imagine if…” world. Rather than make, for example, the availability of financial literacy “better”, leveraging behavioural “nudges” as discussed in the latest Rotman magazine, minimize the required activities of the user. Rather than ask “how do we better make people aware of the need for financial planning?”, ask a different question such as, “how could we, in a ethically and easily reversible way, automatically enrol people into financial products for their financial well being?” It’s a subtle difference but an important one, that speaks to the root of great customer experience: minimizing the asks of the user while promoting their best interests (as it relates to the service or product offering).
“It’s very important to know what you don’t like. A big part of innovation is saying, ‘You know what I’m really sick of..?’” ~ Jerry Seinfeld
So when next designing experience, or considering a change in strategy, lead with “how can we be different?” Because different, when combined with some common sense and a good business case, usually results in better anyway.
Better is the result of thinking and being different, so focus on the activity and let the result come.