Here let me read it to you. Best to listen straight off Spotify though, the browser version is buggy.
Beware the penguinisation
I am an attractive penguin, you tell yourself.
Noble beak, upright stance, sexy streaks of yellow on your flanks. The lovable face and wriggly walk you can build a Hollywood franchise on. Who doesn’t love a penguin?
Zoom out and every penguin to the horizon is exactly the same. That’s how businesses look in the marketplace. It’s how all potential employees look in a pile of resumes. Good individually. From the buyer’s wider viewpoint, an infinite herd of identical people squawking:
“Passionate about what we do.”
“Our people are our greatest asset.”
And deep down, people love the conformity. It’s a warm, secure feeling, because we are herd animals at heart. Act different and the others will laugh at you. People hate that.
Yet to achieve anything meaningful, you must step outside the herd.
The penguinisation is about to hit galactic levels, thanks to the rise of AI.
ChatGPT is here to make us all the same
I tested Jasper copywriting AI a couple of months ago to see if I was redundant. Since then conversational chatbot ChatGPT has landed, setting the internet ablaze. It writes essays, poems, code, translations, executive summaries from your long report, everything.
It’s a good tool and a sign of things to come.
And like crypto in 2021, it’s going to make every other tool you use and every institution you trust obsolete overnight, according to confident bros in your social feeds.
My streams are absolutely rammed with “Here’s 7 surefire ways to use GPT to win in the marketplace” hot takes. All these posts look and feel exactly the same. And are written by people who have not won in any marketplace.
The Great Same-ening is upon us.
Businesses have never seemed as similar as now. It’s been happening for about a decade, since the Web 2.0 years. Facebook, Insta and TikTok forced you into the same templated look as everyone else. Every business has the same WordPress template website and draws from the same shallow pond of stock photos.
Now the sameness is about to accelerate — as the bros would say — 10x.
In business, the charm of individual human character is on borrowed time. ChatGPT, Jasper and all the rest are powerful conformity machines, giving you the ability to churn out Bible-length material about yourself and your business that’s exactly the same as your competitors.
Infinite words nobody wants
The volume of “content” will explode, way beyond any customer’s ability to see or read it. We’ve been swamped forever in a blizzard of endless ads, PowerPoint decks, memos, emails. The only limit was the cost of people making them.
Now you can literally set machines to do half your desk-job. “New task, next Tuesday write all-staff email about working smarter not harder plus reminder to not to leave dirty mugs in the sink, send at 8am.”
Every boaster and busybody can now churn out infinite words nobody wants.
Words will become an even-more devalued currency. We’re all going to have to get better at actions, and at understanding how to be different.
I’m not being a cranky writer here raging against new tech. When I tested Jasper it proved a great tool for getting something started on the page. And for crap writing work like staff manuals and shitty banner ads that nobody reads anyway. As a business owner, I’m all for new tools that save labour costs and we’ve started using it in some of our businesses.
I used AI image generator Dall-E for the penguin picture at the top. It’s hardly inspirational but it’ll do.
The art of management is knowing where to save costs, and where cost-cutting will cost you profit margins in the future.
Put this on a sticky note on your monitor for when you’re reading bold predictions:
Nothing is the answer to everything.
Just because there’s a good new thing doesn’t mean the older things are all “dead”. Even though saying they’re dead generates lots of clicks.
Google considers AI content spam
Here’s a quick tip the AI bros don’t mention. I’ll just quote directly from Search Engine Journal:
“Google’s Search Advocate John Mueller says content automatically generated with AI writing tools is considered spam, according to the search engine’s webmaster guidelines.
This topic is addressed during a recent Google Search Central SEO office-hours hangout in response to a question about GPT-3 AI writing tools.”
Much of the bro advice is along the lines of “the skills of tomorrow are in how you creatively instruct the AI”. Which is true, but I’m not holding out much hope for that. Listen in on literally any conversation on the floor at trade shows or conference cocktail hour, in any industry, and it’s hundreds of people all having the same conversations:
“Have you heard what the competition’s up to?”
“Customers just aren’t willing to pay for quality any more.”
“So hard to find decent staff.”
“I’ve heard someone we both know is looking for a new job.”
With few exceptions, people are going to feed their AI exactly the same inward-focused requests, and we will all drown in a sea of generic material.
It’s time to think weirder
There’s no profit in being the same as everyone else. The no-thought, push-button ease of creating material means you’re less likely to come up with a stroke of lateral thinking genius like the Michelin Guide, an idea that persuaded a nation of food lovers to wear out heaps more tyres.
It’s lots more work to have different ideas, but the rewards are higher.
For years I’ve deliberately cost myself Google presence for this blog. To optimise for their ranking bots, I definitely should not open with a line about attractive penguins. Google would like me to start with:
“Looking for ways to stand out in today’s crowded marketplace? Here are six tips to stand out!”
Google wants you to write the first, most obvious idea that pops into your head on any given topic. And they’re right to do so, because that’s where the search volume is. But there are a lot of people serving that obvious answers role. I’d rather cultivate a smaller audience of people like you*. Who’d prefer something that’s more fun to read, yet still useful when it finally gets to the point.
Applying that thinking to your business helps you create higher margins, because you mean something to your customer. So they won’t drop you the moment they find a lower-price competitor.
Another penguin just as good-looking as you.
Anyway welcome back to 2023. If you’re in January goal-setting mode, may I suggest the first piece I wrote last year, on why your January Atomic Habits might be counter-productive. It’s still relevant this year: Do the big thing: the problem with Atomic Habits.
* Assuming you’ve read this far and not thought wtf penguins and stopped reading.
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