DDG Puts Its Bets on Taiwan

DDG Puts Its Bets on Taiwan
Photo Credit:AP/達志影像

What you need to know

The Brexit decision shows how low thresholds can result in disaster, but being bold is often the only way to succeed.

With the doom-mongers predicting a domino-effect of E.U. exits, global equities markets slumping and currencies moving precariously, the U.K.’s Brexit decision, or more accurately England’s decision on behalf of the U.K, has emerged as ill-considered. Even Leave voters are themselves admitting they are shocked by the consequences of something they didn’t believe could ever actually happen.

That the decision-making of my countrymen is lamentable should come as no surprise. As a recent This American Life podcast on “Choosing Wrong” illustrates, people everywhere are almost preternaturally prone to making poor choices. The podcast draws on US sociologist Mark Granovetter’s modeling to explain how people can resist making changes that are obviously beneficial because they have a high “threshold”. For example, NFL head coaches willfully ignore statistics that categorically prove their team would win two more games in their 16-match season if they went for it on fourth down rather than punted. They ignore the data because they have high thresholds – no one wants to be the first to change, to lead the new paradigm.

For the U.K., the thinking is that disgust with the establishment and fear-mongering by the press as regards the impact of immigration considerably lowered voters’ thresholds for change. These sentiments drove normally rational citizens to do the unthinkable and push the nuclear button, resulting in the collapse of England “politically, monetarily, constitutionally and economically,” according to the Dutch prime minister.

Societal pressures consistently condition people into ignoring things that are obviously in their best interest. Using the example of one of basketball’s most gifted athletes, Wilt Chamberlain, the podcast presenter Malcolm Gladwell suggests that if only the great man had taken free throws underarm, utilizing NBA Hall-of-Famer Rick Berry’s famous “granny shot,” his stats would have matched his talent across the board. Instead, his career numbers are significantly undercut by his sub-50% seasons at the line. Chamberlain couldn’t bring himself to “go granny”, despite having shot the NBA’s record for most free throws in a game (28) using the technique. The podcast notes that Chamberlain admitted he knew the decision made no sense, but that “he was afraid of looking like a sissy.”

By contrast, Berry’s fear was “failing to be the best he could possibly be.” Berry is still in the NBA’s top-five career leaders in terms of free-throw percentage with just under 0.900, having retired at the top in 1980. Chamberlain continues to be the subject of debate, partially as a result of his 0.511 career average at the line, and the suggestion is that he may have won more than two NBA championships if he had changed his attitude to taking post-foul points. Chamberlain had a much higher threshold than Berry – it would require significantly more people to adopt the granny shot before Chamberlain would follow suit than it would for Berry. In this case, Berry’s lower threshold ultimately led him to fulfill his potential.

Which brings us to a striking parallel with DDG’s situation in Taiwan (and no, this has nothing to do with baseball). At DDG, we are on the verge of taking the exciting step of moving into a new, larger office. Faced with the inability to expand further in our current location, we are doubling down on the future by investing heavily in overhauling a new space in the Beimen area of Taipei, in the process demonstrating that we believe strongly in Taiwan’s future.

We are tremendously excited by this future, perhaps even more so amid the current negativity vis-à-vis global economic stability. There is a frisson associated with the risk, the danger we might be overreaching. After all, looking at the numbers, it is relatively easy to draw up a pessimistic case for Taiwan. Its exports, which account for 70% of gross domestic product, fell 9.56% in May compared with the same month last year, representing 16-straight months of decline.

As a brand consultancy, we are opting to put our money where our mouth is. We can sound like a broken record telling our clients that investing in brand, marketing or other market-facing assets can act as a bulwark against the intense price competition that periods of economic downturn invariably ensue. We stand by that message, but we hope that by leading by example, by adopting a low threshold and daring to try things, we may inspire others to follow suit. Of course, the future will always be uncertain. Our low threshold may yet prove as ill-considered as the U.K.’s Brexit choice. However, we are confident we are making the right decision because, if nothing else, it gives us the potential to be the best we can possibly be.

(For the past 20 years, DDG has been helping ambitious companies unveil their greatness — uncovering insights and opportunities that help businesses and brands evolve and expand globally.)

Edited by J. Michael Cole