Sunday, June 14, 2020

The Tiger Who Came to Tea, or What Judith Kerr Could Teach Watch Town

Now in fairness, I had never heard of Judith Kerr or her famous children's book The Tiger Who Came to Tea
Courtesy of Judith Kerr/The Tiger Who Came to Tea
For those of you (like myself) who are unfamiliar with the story, here is a You Tube video to get you up to speed -

Long story short, a very friendly, talking tiger knocks on the door at tea time, asks if he can join the little girl (Sophie) and her mom for tea, and proceeds to eat everything in the house that isn't nailed down.  Because, you know, he's a tiger. Very polite, but also very hungry. He finishes eating and drinking everything in the house, and then leaves. Mom is a wee bit concerned because dad is coming home soon and there's nothing to eat.  Not to worry, dad takes everyone out to a cafe for dinner, and the next day mom and Sophie go shopping and re-stock the kitchen.  And just in case?  They buy an extra large can of tiger food just in case the tiger returns for tea, which he never does.

I was actually introduced to this story through Monocle Magazine.  And if you have not already, and you can afford it, get a subscription.  In the most recent issue - no 134, June 2020, Alain de Botton the founder of The School of Life -, penned "Taming The Beast".  In it, he speaks to the fears and anxiety that plague us all from the cradle to the grave, using the classic children's tale to illustrate that in many cases, if we can understand our fears, we can better manage them.  A great article and I highly recommend it.

Now me (being me) read the same story about Sophie and the tea-time tiger, and had a slightly different take-away. Because I actually saw things this way -

It would be easy to view the tiger as "catastrophe", and therefore we could equate it with the Hong Kong protests, COVID-19, or civil unrest in the US.  In other words, randomness that when unleashed damages otherwise well functioning organizations.  Well, in some instances yes, but in many?  Not so much.  

In my estimation, the tiger represents shitty management.  The tiger epitomizes all of the poor decision making that gets made, which then has a knock-on effect. Sophie and her mom represent the failure of organizations to recognize it and reign it in, or cut it out. On the one hand you can say that at least the tiger didn't eat them, but that was never really the threat.  It was really more a case of upsetting someone (or in this case, a tiger) and asking them to leave.  You know, like saying no to a costly America's Cup promotion, choosing not to make more watches than you can sell, opt not to engage directly with the grey market... well, you get the idea. 

It has been said that adversity will often separate the champs from the chumps, it will reveal true talent and ability, and lay bare deficiencies.  But Watch Town, let's be honest with each other for once, we've been heading towards this reality for the last 2 - 3 years. The Hong Kong protests, COVID-19 and civil unrest in the US only served to accelerate the process.

So rather than going out to buy more tiger food, maybe it might be a moment to look to the brands that have continued to move forward these past few years. Almost all of them have a strong digital presence, communicate with their customers and customers-to-be regularly, and have found ways to adapt in the time of pandemic.  They have direct sales channels, and they are nimble enough to adapt quickly.  

And the other thing that most of these lottery winners know? Things are not ever going to go back exactly to the way they were.  They do not rhapsodize about how things used to be and what they think they will be in the future when things return to "normal".  Normal is in the rear view mirror.  They understand that the future is now.  They don't have time for hyperbole. 

So I'll leave it with a quote from that other great commentator on watches, Nino Brown as portrayed by Wesley Snipes in the movie New Jack City -

“Money talks and bullshit runs a marathon.”

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