The real asset you're building is trust.
And even though it's tempting to cut a corner here and there to boost profit per interaction, the real cost is huge.
No one will say anything, no one will put up a fuss, until one day, they're gone. Those extra few dollars you made with some fancy footwork have now cost you tens of thousands of dollars in lost value.
The opposite is clearly true: invest a nickel or a dime every chance you get, and the trust you earn pays for itself a hundred times over.
From restaurants to direct mail, there's pressure to be scalable, to be efficient, to create something easily replicated.
Which is often used as the reason it's not very good. "Well, we'd like to spend more time/more care/more focus on this, but we need to get bigger."
What if you started in the other direction?
What would happen if you created something noteworthy and worried about scale only after you've figured out how to make a difference?
Getting someone to switch to you is totally different from getting someone who's new to the market to start using the solution you offer.
Admitting I was wrong, and, in many cases, leaving behind some of my identity, because my tribe (as I see them) is using what I used to use.
So, if you want to get a BMW motorcycle owner to buy a Harley as his next bike, you have your work cut out for you.
He's not eager to say, "well, I got emotionally involved with something, but I realized that there's a better choice so I switched, I was wrong and now I'm right."
And he's certainly not looking forward to walking away from his own self-defined circle and enduring the loneliness as he finds a new circle.
Which leads to three things to think about:
We invent a status quo every time we settle on something, because we'd rather tell ourselves that we made a good decision than live with the feeling that we didn't.
Civilization is the foundation of every successful culture. It permits us to live in safety, without being crippled by fear. It's the willingness to discuss our differences, not to fight over them. Civilization is efficient, in that it permits every member of society to contribute at her highest level of utility. And it's at the heart of morality, because civilization is based on fairness.
The civilization of a human encampment, a city or town where people look out for one another and help when help is needed is worth seeking out.
We're thrilled by the violent video of the iguana and the snakes, partly because we can't imagine living a life like that, one where we are always at risk.
To be always at risk, to live in a society where violence is likely—this undermines our ability to be the people we seek to become.
Over the last ten generations, we've made huge progress in creating an ever more civilized culture. Slavery (still far too prevalent) is now seen as an abomination. Access to information and healthcare is better than it's ever been. Human culture is far from fully civilized, but as the years go by, we're getting better at seeing all the ways we have to improve.
And this can be our goal. Every day, with every action, to make something more civilized. To find more dignity and possibility and opportunity for those around us, those we know and don't know.
Hence the imperative. Our associations, organizations and interactions must begin with a standard of civility. Our work as individuals and as leaders becomes worthwhile and generous when we add to our foundation of civilization instead of chipping away at it.
The standard can come from each of us. We can do it. We can speak up. We can decide to care a little more. We can stand up to the boss, the CEO, or the elected representative and say, "wait," when they cross the line, when they pursue profit at the cost of community, when they throw out the rules in search of a brawl instead. The race to the bottom and the urge to win at all costs aren't new, but they're not part of who we are and ought to be.
It's tempting to diversify, particularly when it comes to what you offer the world.
One more alternative, one more flavor, one more variation.
Something for everyone.
We get pushed to smooth out the work, make it softer, more widely applicable.
More breadth, though, doesn't cause change, and it won't get you noticed.
Focus works. A sharp edge cuts through the clutter.
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