“Thank you for that stunning penetration into the obvious.”

[Cache #182]

These were the cutting words of a professor of mine at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, which he had borrowed from an acerbic professor from his own undergraduate days. The class was Commercial Law, and the expression seemed somewhat unfair to wield against unsuspecting students who, for the most part, were taking his class disinterestedly, as a mere elective.

Perhaps because of its clear-eyed cruelty, the retort has stuck through the years, coming again to mind recently as I spoke with a friend who works for Canada Goose, the apparel company that has staked out a brand position as the maker of coats that are – wonder of wonders – really, really warm.

It is the same “obvious” strategy employed in the 1990s by Westin, as they took a fresh look at the hotel bed and had the revolutionary idea of making it really, really comfortable – and naming it, brilliantly, the Heavenly Bed.

And it is not that different from Subway, which has – by staking everything upon food that is fresh, presumably as opposed to rotten – incredibly surpassed McDonald’s by 20% in number of stores, with more than 43,000 globally.

And it is again cranked up this holiday season by WestJet, the airline strongly differentiated on the earthshattering basis that it actually cares about its customers.

All of which demands of us, if we are prepared to listen to the question: in our own businesses, in our own daily lives, in our own relationships, what truly obvious difference-maker are we missing?

Recent comment on CBC Radio One:  Uber’s Misbehaving Executives

Book:  Buy the #1 Globe and Mail bestselling Brand: It Ain’t the Logo or download a free chapter

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