Tag Archives: Spider-man

Is Originality Overrated? The Race for Second Place

In the quest for competitive advantages, we often strive to find the novel idea that will set us apart, thus propelling us to the top of the food chain. While this is a worthy endeavor, is success bequeathed upon innovators? Internality it may feel rewarding to create something new, but is originality actually rewarded?

Last week, Facebook announced a new function, Facebook Camera. This “innovative” feature will allow users to post photos and videos that disappear after 24 hours. Users will also have the ability to add filters and fun overlays to the pics. If this sounds familiar, it may be because Facebook introduced something similar on Facebook Messenger (Messenger Day), WhatsApp (Status), and Instagram (Stories), not to mention there’s another social networking site, Snapchat, which does exactly what these four Facebook-owned products do. In fact, Mike Murray, a reporter at Quartz, points out that Facebook’s five most recent product announcements are eerily similar to designs from other companies.

  • Facebook Camera = Snapchat
  • “Live location” in Messenger = “Sharing your location” in Apple’s Messages
  • Reactions and Mentions in Messenger = Reactions and @-mentions on Slack
  • Streaming videogames live = Twitch
  • Messenger Day = Snapchat

We can judge Facebook for repackaging past ideas, but considering they have two billion monthly users and generated $9 billion in revenue last quarter, maybe we need to judge ourselves for being so reliant on uniqueness. Just look at the movie industry.

Movie studios have grown resistant to new concepts that require a large investment. Instead, they are opting for sequels, remakes, and reboots that already have brand recognition. Why gamble with unknown actors playing unknown characters in an unknown story when you can develop a live action Beauty and the Beast, a re-imagined Spider-Man, or a continuation of Pitch Perfect (all of which I intend to see).

The plethora of movie sequels clogging the multiplex can make you feel as though your life were stuck on spin cycle. But if the movies don’t change, we do, and that’s a blessing.—Joshua David Stein

It’s a simple sales theory: Selling something original is much more difficult than selling something that’s familiar. Different, in itself, is not a selling point. People need to be able to relate what you are peddling to what they already know; otherwise you are in the defensive position of convincing, not promoting.

As much as we need new ideas, in Innovator’s Dilemma, Clayton Christensen makes note that the “new and exciting” companies that disrupt their industry are founded by ex-employees of the “traditional” companies. These individuals did not attain success by creating something from scratch; their “originality” emerged from the idea that they could do it better, not brand new. They did the groundwork at the previous company—experiencing the necessary trial and error, thought experiments, and systems planning—and were able to implement in the new environment.

We all want to be innovators, and I’m not suggesting we abandon this endeavor. However, innovation does not require re-invention. There is something to be said for not consistently creating the wheel. It’s why we study best practices and scrutinize over our competition’s lessons learned. Plus, it lowers risk and is cheaper than paying for mistakes. Let others discover the potholes; we can follow their lead, enhance it, and make it our own.

In the end, there may be self-satisfaction in saying we thought of it first, but think of how self-satisfied you can feel by thinking of it second while enjoying the riches of victory? After all, you are trying to lead your team to long-term success, not win a first-place ribbon.

How Brian Michael Bendis Uses Self-Control to Accomplish Self-Imposed Goals

Brian Michael BendisIf you are like me, you start the week with an ambitious list of things to accomplish. Each goal is specifically chosen as a priority and, when I’m extra ambitious, is placed on my calendar to block out time. Three weeks later, some of these goals remain on my ‘gotta get it done’ list. They are still important, but other items seemed to continuously push them into the following week. Brian Michael Bendis seems to have figured out how to work through these lapses in self-control.

On a recent Nerdist Writers Panel podcast, famed comic book writer and artist Brian Michael Bendis was discussing how he so prolifically churns out so many stories. Bendis is the primary architect of the Ultimate Marvel Universe and heads up books on such iconic characters as Spider-Man, the Avengers, and Powers. Needless to say, he has a full plate. So how does Bendis get it all done?

My plan is to write a script a week. I’m a big believer in that David Mamet movie where one man can do what another can do. I am a big believer almost as a religion. And if Aaron Sorkin when he was on West Wing could write one 88-page script…I can get to 25. If he can do it, I can do it. I’m a big believer in that. And also one week makes me feel like I did something that week. It’s an accomplishment that doesn’t feel hacky. And sometimes it’s a little more, you’re in the zone, so you keep going. And sometimes I don’t go to bed until I’ve clocked one in for Monday.

As overwhelming as one script a week may seem, it’s Bendis’ willpower that makes it happen. There is no “I’ll do it next week.” He has set an uncompromising, self-imposed goal that will (not “hopefully”, “might”, or “probably”) be realized.

On the downside, research shows most of us overestimate our resolve; the ability to refrain from tempting distractions is simply too powerful. Fortunately, research has also found that self-control can be strengthened. To be a Bendis-like superhero of discipline, build up your self-restraint with a few of these mental exercises.

Promise Yourself. Willpower is based on being self-motivated. It is not about creating situations where you rely on others to push you to perform. Therefore, impose strict goals with deadlines on yourself. Feel free to share them with others, but these promises are intended for you. The research demonstrates that those who set these clear, aspiring targets perform better than those who do not.

Reward Yourself. It’s not enough to be motivated by the end-goal; you need a prize waiting for you at the finish line. This makes the short-term sacrifices feel more energizing and worthwhile.

Punish Yourself. Just as there are benefits to successfully reaching each milestone, there must also be consequences for falling short. According to the Handbook of Motivation Science, self-imposed penalties have been found to “prevent individuals from deviating from their goal pursuit.”

Inconvenience Yourself. If cheating seems easy, make it harder. One company wanted to encourage staff to ride their bikes, so they created a key rack that holds both a bike key and a car key. If you take the car key, the bike key drops to the ground forcing you to pick it up and reconsider your decision. These little “pleasurable troublemakers” can go a long way to help you keep your focus and avoid shortcuts.

bendis key

Affirm Yourself. The benefits of a mental pep talk cannot be underestimated. Does it feel cheesy? Maybe, but it works. Positive self-affirmations remind you of your priorities, reaffirm your values, and can build you back up during challenging times.

A personal goal keeps the train running. – Brian Michael Bendis

Bendis may write about superheroes, but that does not make him one. He has the same temptations we all do. The difference is that he has the willpower and self-control to ensure that his self-imposed goals are fulfilled. We have the same capabilities; we simply need to unleash them.