How Do You Compare?

Are you feeling like you are lagging behind your competition? Are you feeling like your boss just doesn’t get how to innovate? Do you feel like your technology sucks? Do you think that your budget is way below the average? Well, you might be right. But you’re not alone.

In my consulting work, at the end of the first day of working together, someone inevitably asks, “Are we the worst you’ve ever seen?” “No,” I say. “Not even close.”

And they aren’t.

Psychologists will tell you that there are two types of comparisons: downward and upward. Downward comparison is when we compare ourselves to someone that we see as worse off than ourselves. Upward comparison is when we compare ourselves to someone we see as better off than we are.

When my groups ask “Are we the worst you’ve ever seen?” as a downward comparison, and I assure them that they’re not, they usually respond with a sense of “Oh, great, that makes us feel better.” And when it is an upward comparison, the reaction is “Tell us about the ones who are doing it better.”

The type of reaction I see helps me plan our approach for the next day. Downward comparers tend to want to look for the easiest paths rather than the right paths. They may say things like “Well, that content strategy will be easier to sell to the C-suite, so let’s go that way.” Upward comparers, on the other hand, want to hear about problems that they don’t have yet. Rather than looking for early, easy wins, they want to explore solutions for challenges that they may run into.

Of course, a given team usually has a mix of upward and downward comparers. It makes for fun explorations.

When you find yourself comparing yourself to others, or when you find your team doing the same, consider whether you’re comparing upward or downward. Ask yourself what kind of comparisons will most likely result in new and improved versions of yourself or your team. That comparison – the one between you today and you tomorrow – is the one that matters.

Robert Rose
Chief Strategy Officer at The Content Advisory
As the Chief Strategy Officer of The Content Advisory, the exclusive education and consulting group of The Content Marketing Institute, Robert develops content and customer experience strategies for large enterprises such as The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Oracle, McCormick Spices, Capital One, and UPS.

Robert’s book, Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing was called “a call to arms and a self-help guide for creating the experiences that consumers will fall in love with.” For the last three years, he’s co-hosted the podcast This Old Marketing, with Joe Pulizzi. It’s frequently a top 20 marketing podcast on iTunes and is downloaded more than a million times every year, in 100 countries around the world.
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Author: Robert Rose
As the Chief Strategy Officer of The Content Advisory, the exclusive education and consulting group of The Content Marketing Institute, Robert develops content and customer experience strategies for large enterprises such as The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Oracle, McCormick Spices, Capital One, and UPS. Robert’s book, Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing was called “a call to arms and a self-help guide for creating the experiences that consumers will fall in love with.” For the last three years, he’s co-hosted the podcast This Old Marketing, with Joe Pulizzi. It’s frequently a top 20 marketing podcast on iTunes and is downloaded more than a million times every year, in 100 countries around the world.