We do a lot of projects in our work. That means we also look at a lot of other people's projects. One of the effects of that is a constant paranoia that things are too similar. Either we're doing a project that's like one we already do or just like someone else's.
It's different from doing things for clients. Work for clients always starts from a unique position. It's all about them. In contrast, everything we do for ourselves comes from us and, let's face it, we don't change that much from one moment to the next.
Conventional wisdom demands that we strategically position projects or products to differentiate them. Traditional marketing speak has left the world with a miserable legacy of USP's and competitive differentiators. It's why we have toothbrushes with tongue-scrapers rather than just really good toothbrushes.
In the real world things are rarely unique. Most things are a bit like other things. Actively fighting that delivers short-lived ideas with novelty value that do nothing but say they're different. Most of the products and services we encounter on a daily basis have been derived from this artificial attempt to be unique.
So, if we listened to this paranoia when we develop projects we'd be constantly be looking for Project+, the project with something a bit special added. The thing is, we know from experience that this would fail.
Truly differentiated projects and ideas come from constant attention, not being afraid to adapt, working with different people, as much time as can be afforded and a real desire to do something useful. In other words lots and lots of honest, thoughtful iterations.
Trying to fake this natural process creates shallow ideas and short-lived initiatives. Knowing this gives us the freedom to step back and have faith in the process. It's a bit like gardening. And no two gardens are the same.