Good and different

I drew the following diagram from a description in Marty Neumeier’s book The Designful Company:

In any given endeavour, a business can choose the following approaches:

  1. Good and different.
  2. Different but not good.
  3. Not good and not different.
  4. Good but not different.

Neumeier contends that many businesses tend to choose the same over the different – in other words, 3 and 4 from the list and diagram above. They are fearful of doing anything different. There is a perception of safety in doing things the same way, especially if that way comes with easily rationalisable and quantifiable “proof”.

This is the “gradual improvement” approach. We will do what we have always done (which appears to return x% so far). Or we will do what a competitor’s done (which seems to be successful as they have grown y%).

If we do something completely different, we could make massive gains, or losses. The potential for big losses is scarier than the potential for big gains.

In today’s world of chaotic and sudden change, and global access, this sort of rear-view-mirror driven is potentially catastrophic. As we plod cautiously forward while looking in the rear view mirror, someone who dares to drive a better car, with their eyes firmly pointed ahead, can easily leave us in their dust trail.


  1. Robert Rath said:

    Nice insight Zern but ‘Good’ hinges so much on ‘values’ and so is hard to pin down. On the other hand I like the use of ‘Good’ and ‘Not Good’ in being able to apply to a very specific set of values on a case by case basis.

    For example, delighting software end users with a simple interface to a new and ‘Different’ application might be ‘Good’ while frustrating them with an overly complex one would be ‘Not Good’. This example is reasonable but some might still disagree. iSnack2.0 on the other hand might very well have been valued as ‘Good’ if from a competitor in the market.

    Hmmm, I’ll have the original thanks! :-)

  2. Zern said:

    I have deliberately left the word “Good” undefined – because it is so completely relative.

    The decision makers in each situation will have to define their own “good”. Likewise the outsiders looking in, and making judgements on, their decisions will need to do so from their own definition of “good”.

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