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Weird as a competitive advantage

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Joe Cortright of City Observatory recently reposted an article that he wrote back in 2010 called, Keeping it Weird: The Secret to Portland’s Economic Success.

In it he talks about a “weirdness index” that he developed for CEOs for Cities that measured and ranked 50 American cities across 60 different behavioural indicators. San Francisco and Salt Lake City come out as the weirdest, and Portland ranked 11th out of 50. The most “normal” part of the US was the Midwest. Normal meaning behaviours that are most similar to the national average.

He then goes on to talk about weird as a competitive advantage. Here are a few snippets:

When it comes to economic success in today’s economy, the key is to differentiate yourself from your competitors. Harvard Business School’s Michael Porter counsels businesses that “competitive strategy is about being different.” And the late, great urbanist Jane Jacobs told us, “The greatest asset that a city can have is something that’s different from every other place.”


True entrepreneurship is about deviant behavior: starting a business that makes a product that no one else has thought of or thinks there’s a market for. Entrepreneurs and open-minded, experimental customers go hand-in-hand.


We shouldn’t do things just to be different, but we should never be dissuaded from trying something simply because it is different or would make us different from other places.

What this all comes down to is the simple fact that what is weird today, might very well become the norm tomorrow. But you need to be open enough to allow that to happen if you want to be the place that generates those news ideas.

Could you have imagined that selfies would become as ubiquitous as they have? That would have been pretty hard to predict. It used to be the case that people were afraid to use their real name on the internet. Now we share our entire life online, including our faces.

Image: Flickr

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