• Matt Burrell

How to Avoid Becoming a Commodity

Updated: Dec 28, 2019

Peter Drucker, an influential management consultant, author and educator, was born in Austria in the early 1900s.

He had a profound impact on management theory and practice. So much so that he's been called the founder of modern management.

Drucker grew up in a home that was frequented by intellectuals, thinkers, and scientists. His father was a high government official and his mother a medical graduate with an interest in psychiatry.

Drucker's family included philosophers and University professors and during family gatherings he was encouraged to get involved in discussions on law, psychiatry, science, economics and history.

At age 8, during the time of one Austria's famines, his parents took him to a co-op restaurant set up to feed the local community. There he was introduced to "the most important man in Austria and perhaps in Europe", Dr Sigmund Freud.

These childhood interactions with great thinkers influenced Drucker's beliefs. He saw first-hand how individuals can rise to the top of their field and stand out against the crowd.

In one of his most well-known quotes, Drucker states:

"In a commodity market, you can only be as good as your dumbest competitor."

Here Drucker was referring to companies selling products, but he would have known this also applies to people.

If you want to stand out from the crowd, don't be a commodity.

How to differentiate yourself

Standing out from the crowd is important in today's 'copy-cat', 'me-too' workplace. Competition for positions and projects can be tough. You need to be proactive in making sure you get picked.

People want to be promoted or to be recognised but the truth is people need to promote themselves.

Stop waiting to be promoted and promote yourself

One way to do this is by developing your personal brand. If you're not creating and defining your own personal brand then you should be. Otherwise you'll just become part of someone else's brand.

In order to create a successful brand you need to get better at marketing and selling. It doesn't matter how good your technical skills are, if you can't sell them they're worthless.

When you sell something, you package it up into a bundle. You create an offering that your customers (which might be an employer) wants to buy.

You won't appeal to every customer. But that's ok. Decide who you want your customers to be, your audience, and then focus on selling to them.

What are you selling?

Your personal value, what you can offer, comes from the skills and experience that you've picked up over the years. The good news is you can always increase your value by constantly learning new skills.

But it gets better. The key to avoiding becoming a commodity is to understand that there's only one thing that can't be commoditised: your unique, authentic self.

Your individual experience will always represent a niche market because it can't be copied. Package, market and sell that experience. This means being yourself and speaking your truth. Don't copy what others are saying, find your own voice.

Innovate at all costs

The most important thing to do is to keep innovating. Innovation is the best way of avoiding product commoditisation. And it applies to you too.

Innovate by constantly reinventing yourself. This adds to your unique perspective on life and differentiates you from other people.

Law 25 of the 48 Laws of Power is to Re-Create Yourself. See yourself as clay that can be moulded. Be an artist as well as a marketer and shape your identity by becoming a better version of yourself.

"Re-create yourself by forging a new identity, one that commands attention and never bores the audience."

Robert Greene

We all have the power to change our personalities and define our own identity. Those that realise this rise to the top.


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