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Seth Godin, Bluebird and everybody else

A long queue of Bluebird taxis moving steadily in the outside lane… and taxis from three different companies in the inside hoping they’ll get a customer sometime soon.

This market has two categories.

Here’s Seth Godin:

The Surprising Value of Being the Best in the World

Our culture celebrates superstars. We reward the product or the song or the organization or the employee that is number one. The rewards are heavily skewed, so much so that it’s typical for #1 to get ten times the benefit of #10, and a hundred times the benefit of #100.

According to the International Ice Cream Association, these are the top ten flavors of ice cream:

Vanilla
Chocolate
Butter Pecan
Strawberry
Neapolitan
Chocolate Chip
French Vanilla
Cookies ’n’ Cream
Fudge Ripple
Praline

You’d be forgiven if you assumed, as you assume with most lists, that the top-ranked flavors did a little bit better than the others. But here’s what the distribution really looked like:

It’s always like this (almost always, anyway). It’s called Zipf’s law, and it applies to résumés and college application rates and best-selling records and everything in between. Winners win big because the marketplace loves a winner.

With limited time or opportunity to experiment, we intentionally narrow our choices to those at the top.

You’re not the only person who looks for the best choice. Everyone does. As a result, the rewards for being first are enormous. It’s not a linear scale. It’s not a matter of getting a little more after giving a little more. It’s a curve, and a steep one.

Seth Godin – The Dip [amazon]

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