What’s better than better?

Throughout management training I was taught “More isn’t better; better is better.”

But there’s a problem with being better. To be better means to be compared against something.  Sometimes it’s competition against another person – do better than that rival.  Sometimes it’s competition against the self – do better than what you did yesterday.  Sometimes it’s competition against an ideal – as in “you can do better.” Being better implies optimizing on something, that somewhere above where we stand exists a higher level of achievement.  To be better means to take what we  already do and improve it based on the evaluatives of an existing rubric.

The problem with “better,” then, is that it only works when your customers – and here “customers” takes on a wide meaning: patients, buyers, parents, whatever – uses the same rubric that you do.

Being better is also very hard to do – to find the “Best” out of N choices, a computer makes N-1 comparisons, each comparison based on a rubric of many parameters. Humans take shortcuts by substituting this algorithm with a heuristic – a much easier question.  Most of the time, “who’s the best doctor/plumber/dogsitter” gets subconsciously substituted with “who comes up in your head first when I mention doctor/plumber/dogsitter?”

In other words, our customers very frequently end up thinking very differently about “better,”  and being better isn’t always better.

We end up with ourvery own type of better – how we uniquely contribute to the team, the organization, the customer.  How we communicate these qualities shapes how we differ from their choices. Different is how people remember us, walking away from that first meeting.  Different is what stops us from becoming a substitutable commodity.  Different is better than better.

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Howard Chen
Vice Chair for Artificial Intelligence at Cleveland Clinic Diagnostics Institute
Howard is passionate about making diagnostic tests more accurate, expedient, and affordable through disciplined implementation of advanced technology. He previously served as Chief Informatics Officer for Imaging, where he led teams deploying and unifying radiology applications and AI in a multi-state, multi-hospital environment. Blog opinions are his own and in no way reflect those of the employer.

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