Crackerjack positioning

„Crackerjack positioning“ is generally considered a book about niche marketing for the entrepreneur. However, at a closer look, both our professional as well as our personal lives can get a good deal out of it.

          Don Reynolds, the author behind it all, is a consultant and award-winning professional speaker. He writes articles, presents talks, and teaches seminars on the use of crackerjack positioning.


What does crackerjack positioning actually mean?


          As Don explains it:

  • Crack-er-jack – a person or thing of striking excellence
  • Positioning – putting in a particular location or condition of advantage

   “Crackerjack positioning becomes, therefore, the act of putting a person or enterprise of striking excellence in a marketplace location or position of advantage.

    In layman terms, it means to stand out in a modest and unique way,

“Far from the madding crowd” as Thomas Hardy puts it.

          The technique Don Reynolds talks about in the book refers to small companies that need to stand out in order to survive the continuous business climate change. However, individuals make the companies. They are the ones coming with ideas and putting them into practice. This means that the key to establish and maintain your crackerjack positioning consists of having a staff of excellence that can put you on the map and keep you there.


The pieces of the crackerjack positioning

          The book is organized into 27 chapters. Despite the long number, their length is kept to a decent minimum, not failing, on the other hand, of making its point exquisitely.

          Apart from the introductory chapter, meant to explain, in more detail, the origin of the crackerjack positioning idea, the chapters are so organized that they start off with us as individuals, then us in the context of companies, and finish off with us as individuals.

The first and most important step of the crackerjack positioning

          A five-year-old boy’s pet frog fell into a shaft in his backyard. The boy’s father tried to free the frog. He used a stick, then a shovel, finally trying to reach the frog with tongs. Nothing seemed to work. Finally, the boy said: “Dad, can I try?” The father answered, “Sure, son, go ahead.” The boy picked up a water hose attached to a nearby faucet, turned the water faucet on, and proceeded to fill the hole with water. As the hole filled, the frog rose to the top, where it was easily rescued.

          A child maintains an open mind and develops resourceful solutions to problems. Around the age of nine, children lose that ability, the moment their families and the school system tell them they need to conform in order to fit into society. That very day is the beginning of the end for innovation for a lot of children and future adults.

          Once the innovation is thrown outside the window, it’s difficult to get it back. Some of us, in time, manage it more than others. Others will be forever lost in the pattern of acceptable thinking and behavior that is commanded by social norms.

          Children have now been taught to color inside the lines. They have established their first paradigm.     

          In order to regain our innovation, we need to break from the restrictions of paradigms.

          Each of us creates our own paradigm. We do it by interpreting the messages we receive from the outside world. We have an experience; receive a message and interpret that message and establish a new paradigm based on our interpretation.


Paradigm thinking is not only for individuals


           Industries and professions have the same paradigm problems. Their paradigms are made up of the collective thinking and beliefs of the participants in that industry founded on years of experience.

          These rules mean that any major technological breakthrough comes from people beyond the industry or profession borders. Insiders are limited by the boundaries of their paradigm. Outsiders aren’t. If you are to establish a new position in your industry, you’ve got to get beyond your present paradigm.


          Connect all the dots in the below drawing using no more than four straight lines, and do not lift your pencil from the paper.


           The puzzle is impossible to solve if you assume that there is an imaginary fence around the nine dots beyond which you cannot extend your lines. Most people make that assumption. Therefore, a boundary exists in the mind of the problem solver that’s not part of the problem. She is limited by her self-constructed paradigm.

          Other solutions can include making the dots bigger so you can connect them with three lines. One person folded the paper in such a way that one line could connect all the dots. 

          When you maintain an open mind, you eliminate the imagined restrains. There’s no limit to what you can do when you get outside the paradigm.


Fill your medicine pouch to become a crackerjack

          The problem in our world is that we tend to surround ourselves with people who have the same ideas and world views as us. That is not bad, but it does nothing to our innovation. In order to become a crackerjack, to own your unique position, wherever you are, it’s important to look beyond the horizon.

          In his “The technique of producing ideas”, James Web Young talks about how we can get great ideas. A new idea doesn’t have to be necessarily something innovative, that nobody has seen or heard before. Not all of us belong to the 2% of the innovators of this world. However, the rest of us, normal folk, can try and combine old ideas to make up a new one. The trick is the combination and the freedom to go outside the boundaries of our own profession.

          We meet with people in our industry. We listen to people talk about the same ideas that we have. How about meeting with people from other industries, reading what we haven’t read before. Experiencing new things.

Ideas are all around us. The more we extend our visual perspective, the broader our innovation spectrum gets.

Gather as much information as possible and let it sit awhile in your “medicine pouch” as the Native Americans put it. The key is to give the brain a small break to organize itself, to let everything sink in, while you take a break and detach yourself from the thinking process. In fact, the organization and processing process begins just now. After letting all sink in, then, go back and comes up with the solution 

How to enforce your crackerjack positioning

Tom Monaghan began with a pizza parlor in Ypsilanti, Michigan. He had tables and beers and sandwiches. Yet, he saw a hole in the market that nobody else saw. He saw the delivery side of the business. So, he concentrated his efforts in turning Domino’s into a home-delivery position. He got rid of the tables and the beers and the sandwiches. His main focus was the timely delivery of pizza to your house, in 30 minutes or less.

The first step on your crackerjack positioning path is to find that thing that differentiates you from others. Now that you’ve done that, improve on the differentiation factor.

When you’re by yourself it’s lonely and sometimes you look for cover. When you hit a bump in the road, the temptation is to go back to the way you were doing it before. However, if we follow the same patterns as before, we get the same results.

          At first, things weren’t easy. For sure there were nights when Monaghan thought about putting tables and beers and sandwiches back on.

Tom Monaghan knew there is no way he could ever compete with Pizza Hut. He had no other option. So, he stuck with home delivery. In the end, his strategy was successful beyond his wildest dreams.

Find the thing that differentiates you from the rest. You do that by expanding your horizon and look for things inside and outside your industry, your circle of friends and acquaintances. Get out of the ordinary, break the routine. Once you’ve done that, use that same innovation hunger to enforce your crackerjack positioning. Make it stronger and keep reinforcing it.

Takeaways from “Crackerjack positioning”

You might be part of a company searching to improve. You might be a simple individual, who feels there’s something more out there that you’ve overlooked. Either way, Don Reynolds is a great book to start in finding your crackerjack position. 

The ideas flow without effort. He makes the points through stories, covering both failures and success. As Don Reynolds put us: success comes from experience. Experience comes from failure.

It’s a very simple and modest invitation to get a different perspective both professionally and personally.  

Get outside of your comfort zone, which is the familiar you surround yourself with. Discover that special something that makes you stand out. And deliver the message to “Make it stick”. 

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