Uniquely Better

The book, The Founders Mentality by Chris Zook and James Allen, talks about the owner’s mindsight.  I love this idea of thinking like you were the owner. In that spirit, if I owned the Kohler Co., I would want every one of my leaders to listen to this podcast and to push us to create a culture that is positioned to recognize ‘uniquely better’ and embrace it rather than resist it.


Disruptive ideas are only disruptive to existing organizations. Disruptive ideas are never disruptive to start-ups. Why, because when a company starts up around an idea, it’s not disruptive, it is the idea!

– Andy Stanley

I will capture my notes below, but honestly recommend you just listen to the 15-minute part 1 and 16-minute part 2 when you have a moment. You can find the podcast at the links for part 1 and part 2 or listen on iTunes by searching for The Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast and scrolling down to the Nov3, 2017 episode Uniquely Better, Part 1 and the Nov 30, 2017 episode Uniquely Better, Part 2. However you find it, I am certain you will find this worth the 30 minutes it takes to listen to it, and if you are like me you will listen to it more than once. Why am I so bold to say this? In 2018 I listened to hundreds of podcasts, read hundreds of articles, as well as numerous books and other media, and I can state that this was my favorite, and most impactful, intake of information. Andy simply captures some important thoughts in a short, actionable message that I think leaders will enjoy.

The below notes are simply my transcription of key sections of his talk. I hope this will help you, and that you find the podcast/message as impactful as I did.  If you have any comments or questions please contact me anytime – Douglas Diemel

Part 1   15:37 running time

Andy Stanley starts with the why…  When we started, why did our organization grow as so fast in the beginning? What was going on then, that is clearly not going on now? And, is there anyway to recapture or recreate that momentum?

He concludes that what they had in the beginning was a Uniquely Better Product. In his words, “If you wanted what we were offering you had to come to us because we were the only organization offering what we were offering.

5:45 Is there a way to recapture or recreate uniquely better?

6:30 Somebody, somewhere, is messing with the prevailing model. Somebody is pioneering a new way to do the things we do today, but do them better…

9:50 Discovering uniquely better is nearly impossible… This podcast is not going to share the 5 ways to figure out what is uniquely better. What it will do is push every business to actively work to recognize uniquely better and create a culture that will embrace it and not resist it. 

11:10 Uniquely better is often the by-product, or the result, of circumstances that successful organizations are trying to avoid. Example of this is Kodak. Kodak wanted people to not stop using film; however, digital was uniquely better. Uniquely better ideas are almost always disruptive.

12:30 Disruptive ideas are only disruptive to existing organizations. Disruptive ideas are never disruptive to start-ups. Why, because when a company starts up around an idea, it’s not disruptive, it is the idea! 

13:10 Every organization, regardless of how old it is, regardless of how large it is, should try to maintain a start-up mindset or you will how, or how much, the good ideas out the door.

13:30 Example of how Netflix embraced change and uniquely better. (listen to story on podcast)

15:00 **Key Point = Create organizational cultures that are positioned to recognize, rather than resist, uniquely better.  The companies that recognize it first, the early adopters, generally benefit even if they weren’t the ones to create it or discover it first.Create organizational cultures that are positioned to recognize, rather than resist, uniquely better.  The companies that recognize it first, the early adopters, generally benefit even if they weren’t the ones to create it or discover it first. – Andy Stanley

Part 2   16:47 running time

Andy reiterates that the goal is not to create uniquely better, but to recognize uniquely better. To achieve this he shares four organizational habits

  1. Be a student, not a critic
    • Andy’s personally mantra is, “I will not criticize things I do not understand” This moves in the opposite direction of intuition. Intuitively we resist things we cannot understand or control. “If we cannot understand it, or we can’t control it, our natural action is to resist it.” We must recognize this and actively choose to not criticize, and eventually embrace things we don’t yet understand.
    • 5:00 “The next generation product & idea almost never comes from the previous generation” The best bet is to create a culture that will recognize and embrace uniquely different.
  2. Keep your eyes and mind wide open
    • 6:00 Listen to outsiders, people who are not in our industry and not bound by our assumptions (walls), who can think outside the prevailing model. Outsiders are ignorant to the assumptions that bind us, and their ignorance may be our ticket to the future. “You have to be willing to learn from everything and everyone.”
    • 7:15 “Close-minded leaders close minds”
      • if you are close-minded your innovators will leave and take the innovation with them.
      • Your status quo people will stay, and defend the status quo, and you won’t recognize uniquely better you will resist it.
    • 9:40 We need to respond like an open-minded person because we want the people around us to bring the best ideas, not just our ideas!
    • Are we open minded? One question to ask is: When is the last time our organization embraced a big idea that wasn’t our idea? Or if you are the leader, when was the last time my team embraced a big idea that wasn’t my idea?  NOTE: it is nearly impossible to see close-minded in the mirror…
  3. Replace How with Wow
    • Wow fuels innovation
    • How shuts it down
    • How much really shuts it down
    •  13:05 “We should wow new ideas to life, not how them to death.” Nothing is gained by not knowing what the people around us are dreaming about, thinking about, or considering. That conversation is fueled by wow rather than how.
  4. Ask uniquely better questions
    1. Is this idea or product unique?
    2. What would make it unique?
      • Advantage of asking these two questions is that it puts the work “unique” in the vocabulary of our decision making; otherwise we have the tendency to do what we have done before…
      • Unique precedes better…
    3. Is it better?
      • Why are we asking these questions?  Because we are trying to create a culture that is on the look our for uniquely better. When we are looking for unique, and for better, we have a much better chance to recognize and embrace uniquely better when it comes along.

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