‘Great careers involve doing new and distinctive things’

Great careers, McKinsey tells us, are built by people doing new and distinctive things. What is new and distinctive? Let’s settle for the simple definition of “What do other people think is new and distinctive?’’ Try a little test – write down your new and distinctive achievements. To see mine drop me an email at [email protected] and I’ll send them to you.

There are two vital primary elements for a distinctive career – luck and the ability to present yourself and your projects creatively. Over luck we have little control. People say you make your own luck. That’s not true but it is obvious that if you forecast well you stand a better chance of being in the right place at the right time. If your forecasting is poor ask yourself – or, better still, ask a good mentor / coach – ‘why that is so?’ You can always improve it if you want to.

The obvious ‘New and Distinctive’ is Apps. There’s an App for most things now but people will still invent more. How do they come about? Say what an App is in three words. One of the words is “A”, so it’s two words really. What does an App allow you to do? Have a think as you read on. There are millions of New and Distinctive things other than Apps of course. Electric cars, drones, AI – the list is endless. It is mostly made up of things you and I are unlikely to invent.

That doesn’t mean we shall miss out on new and distinctive. It means our new and distinctive must be reaching further than other people’s. There are two ways to do this. You can look further ahead in time and / or you can stretch beyond your present knowledge base. Other people have already done these things on the subjects you will tackle. That is no reason for your not doing so.

Great futuristic thinkers often miss the obvious as they search into the unknown. And your ability to understand other people’s thinking is dependent on your being able to think for yourself. You have only to be a couple of steps ahead of your rivals to win. The main areas in which you can be new and distinctive are: perception, analysis, calculation, creative expression, presentation, valuing. In all of these you will need to be creative. How is your creativity? Here’s are two tests to find out.

[1] A close friend has recently passed on and you are writing a letter of condolence to his widow. What is the most important thing you must say in this letter? [2] Your first baby has just arrived. Name the one thing you want most in her or his personality to ensure a fulfilled life.
You will see that there is no one answer to each of these questions so what you say will demonstrate your priorities. Your answers will also demonstrate your creativity.

Now ask yourself these questions about each of your answers:
[a] What did I see / perceive in the situation that mattered most?
[b] How did I analyse what I saw? What thought process did I go through?
[c] How did I calculate the importance of the various answers I could have given?
[d] How can I express my answer in purely emotional terms – to make people laugh or cry?
[e] What words most effectively express my answer, even of they are not strictly accurate?
[f] What is the value of my answer – and to whom?

You have just gone through a thought process. What did you learn from it?

Now review your new and distinctive list. See if you can add to it either with facts or with dreams. Dreaming is good provided it doesn’t get confused with fact. I’d go further and say it is essential.

Dream up your next lot of new and distinctive things. Then get to work and put them into practice. You will become one of the New and Distinctive successes.

And you will certainly deserve to.

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