• Matt Burrell

How to Avoid Becoming a Commodity

Peter Drucker was an influential management consultant, author and educator.

He had such an impact on management theory and practice that he's been called the 'founder of modern management'. This success isn't surprising when you consider his background and early years.

Born in Austria in the early 1900s, Drucker grew up in a home frequented by intellectuals, thinkers, and scientists. His father was a high government official and his mother a medical graduate.

Drucker's family included philosophers and University professors and during family gatherings he was encouraged to get involved in discussions on law, psychiatry, science, economics and history.

At age 8, during one of Austria's famines, Drucker's parents took him to a co-op restaurant set up to feed the local community. There he was introduced to "the most important man in Austria and perhaps in Europe", Dr Sigmund Freud.

These childhood interactions with great thinkers and experts must have influenced Drucker's perspective on life. He saw first-hand how individuals can rise to the top of their field and stand out from the crowd.

How to differentiate yourself

Standing out from the crowd is important in today's workplace. Competition for positions and projects is tough, especially given the increase in remote working. Your potential competitors can now be anywhere in the world. How then can you increase your chances of getting noticed?

The answer is simple. Don't be a commodity.

In one of his most well-known quotes, Drucker said:

"In a commodity market, you can only be as good as your dumbest competitor."

Here Drucker was referring to companies selling commoditized products but he would've known that this truth also applies to people.

If you copy what others do when you sell yourself and your ideas, you're positioning yourself as a commodity. You can then only be as good as your dumbest competitor as Drucker would say. Instead position yourself as a non-fungible asset. This makes you much less easy to replace and far more valuable.

What are you selling?

Your task is to find out what specific knowledge or skills you have that other people will pay for. Then you need to learn how to package, sell and promote that asset.

Perhaps you think you have nothing to offer? This is hardly ever true because everyone has a unique work experience and personality that will represents a niche market that cannot be copied.

If you reflect on your life and work experience so far you will likely discover a personal niche of skills that other people can benefit from.

And you can further increase your 'value proposition' by learning new skills and packaging them within the context of your personal offering.

Stop waiting to be promoted and promote yourself

In traditional companies there tends to be a hierarchical career path that people follow. Someone with an 'employee mindset' metaphorically sits around waiting to be promoted or to be recognised. On the other hand, someone with a 'business mindset' promotes themselves.

One way to promote yourself is to develop a personal brand. Your personal brand is an asset that you can sell to employers or clients. When you invest in your personal brand it increases in value. Personal brands are difficult or impossible to copy so cannot be commoditized.

Start to create and define your personal brand by reflecting on your skills, personality and individual approach. If you don't do this you'll end up becoming part of someone else's brand.

Innovate at all costs

Personal brands are not static. They evolve and transform along with your experience and skills. You need to be creative and innovative in order to continue to stand out. Innovation is one of the best ways to avoid commoditisation.

Law 25 of the 48 Laws of Power is to Re-Create Yourself. See yourself as clay that can be moulded. Be an artist as well as a marketer and shape your identity by becoming a better version of yourself.

"Re-create yourself by forging a new identity, one that commands attention and never bores the audience."

Robert Greene

We all have the power to change our personalities and define our own identity. Those that realise this rise to the top.

Recent Posts

See All

Successful People Create Their Own Ladder

In 1984, an inexperienced eighteen-year-old tried to enter the restaurant business. He had no relevant training in catering but this didn't put him off. He wrote to the Top 30 restaurants in the UK an

The Specialist vs Generalist Myth

In 2019, Facebook cracked down on personality quiz apps. This came after it was revealed that an analytics firm was using one of these apps to secretly extract personal data on millions of users. The

How to Get Into Contracting

When I was a permanent employee, I was envious of contractors. They seemed to have more autonomy and independence than I did. They didn’t need to ask someone for permission to take time off. They didn