The World’s Greatest Teacher

A lifetime ago when I presented my anthropology fieldwork, an advisor said, “You’ve written 178 pages on how economic development has affected ethnic identity. But I’m not convinced. You haven’t shown me one example where this is NOT the case. Your argument isn’t credible.”

I was taken aback…how could this possibly make my argument stronger? Well it does.

While we may be right often, inevitably there are times where we are wrong. Opportunities hide where we can’t see. Because of this, a client made me eat humble pie during a sizing exercise.

Consider these options:

1. A wildly successful jewelry brand that is the leader in China with EU$100M sales.

2. A newer personal care brand that is growing rapidly in Europe but not yet officially in China.

From my view, #1 was a clear winner given the brand’s strength. When first I met him, he said that #1 wasn’t going to work and that #2 was right for ecommerce. He was certain.

I wasn’t… Yet the data showed that #1 would do 4M vs #2 at 14M. He was right. And now it made sense: consumers for #1 were women over 45 who shop in person, whereas consumers for #2 were under 35 and largely shop online.

Lesson? I learn more when I’m wrong…and mistakes are the greatest teacher.