When Being Different is No Longer Different


Last week I was wandering around a Barnes & Noble bookstore perusing the business titles when I noticed a trend.  Instead of

What a bunch of "Bull"

books titled around understandable topics like management, leadership, marketing, and strategy, there were hosts of books with oddball titles…most notably: How to Castrate a Bull.

Now I know why authors and publishers do this.  Each year, almost 11,000 new business books enter the U.S. market.   Most of them will sell less than 1,000 copies.  In order to stand out from the other thousands of books, authors and publishers try to make the boring business information stand out.  I’m thinking it worked.  After all, Who Moved My Cheese became an instant best-seller by simply regurgitating change management techniques into a fable…but it was the title that sold the book.  I’ve even done it with two of my own books: Podium Paranoia: Transforming Fear into Knockout Presentations and From Cave to Cubicle: A Practical Guide to Organizational Behavior.

Except now, nearly every book has that catchy, oddball title.  How to Castrate a Bull (which is actually a book about risk, growth, and success in business (that’s off the cover by the way, I didn’t bother to open the book and read it) was just the most outlandish.  The No Asshole Rule was a close second.

As an avid reader, I’m realizing there really isn’t much new information out there, just a lot of rehash rebranded.  What used to make it stand out now is commonplace.  I wonder if a title as simple as How to Grow and Be Successful While Minimizing Risk might actually sell more copies to an audience that really needs that information?  I’m not interested in castrating bulls but I would like to make more money.

Honestly, what really sells are results.  If you’re trying to capture a fleeting audience, then creative titles might get attention, but the people you really want to read your books are the ones who will use highlighters, dog-ear the pages, spill chili on the cover and basically beat it up getting the information out of it.  Timeless classics like The Fifth Discipline and Leading Change are those kinds of books.  No weird title or creepy cover.

Professional athletes often resort to using odd behaviors to get attention.  Dennis Rodman certainly started the trend but now it’s used by more and more pro athletes like Chad Ochocinco, Metta World Peace, and Terrell Owens.  The public tolerates and enjoys the antics…until productivity drops and then it gets old quickly.  Being different doesn’t automatically equate to results.

What about people like us?  Are we indeed delivering results or simply standing out in the crowd.  Is our participation in a meeting adding to the discussion or are we simply sounding engaged?  Are we truly busy and productive at our desk or, like George Costanza says “when you look annoyed, people think that you’re busy.”

This week, let’s make a commitment to deliver results, not flair.  Let’s be steak, not pork rinds.  Let’s get results without risk rather than castrate bulls.

I’m in.  Are you?


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