Learning from Richard Dobbs

In a presentation to the fashion industry, sponsored by The Business of Fashion, Richard Dobbs of McKinsey outlined in simple and clear terms the reasons why our global economy feels uncertain, fractious and often slightly bewildering.

Mr Dobbs presented themes which we have been observing at Studioriley for a number of years, not least of which is the rise of The Majority World as a force within the global economy. For most of the post war period “emerging markets” were seen as sources of cheap labor servicing Western multinational businesses. As the number of middle class consumers grew, these markets were also seen as opportunities, particularly for luxury goods. Today we see a far bigger picture, a world within which Western consumers are in the minority and people in Majority World nations are creators of brands and high quality products.

Dobbs puts it succinctly: If you are in a Western business then you are basing your decisions on intuition that will fail you. Our intuition is informed by our past. The past provides most of the context for our thinking. The past plays an important part in forming our intuition about the present.

Equally important is creating a context for the present that is not simply about our past but everyone’s past. Western thinking, especially in business, can be very limiting when your market is made up of people who continue to live the aftermath of imperialism. Good thinking demands good context. Context feeds intuition and intuition is what turns data into insight. Behind Dobb’s analysis is a compelling argument that we need to deepen our understanding of context as we increase our dependence on metrics.

Dobbs concludes with the idea that we should not defend our businesses (from the inevitable) but should look outside our businesses and markets to find innovation. With the influx of big data, massive market change and assured disruption, it is our creative abilities that will make the difference. Context is difficult to quantify but easy to observe. Data helps us look but it is our creativity that helps us see.

His talk is here:

Full reporting by Business of Fashion is here.

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