Laura Huang is an Associate Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School and author of the book Edge: Turning Adversity into Advantage. Her research has been featured in The Financial Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Forbes, and Nature. Laura has won a number of awards for her research, including a 2016 Kauffman Foundation Fellowship and was named one of the 40 Best Business School Professors Under the Age of 40 by Poets & Quants. Laura sits down with Chris to share how entrepreneurs can leverage adversity to create a competitive edge.
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"Hard work alone is not enough. It's critical. I would never say that hard work is not critical, but hard work alone is not enough." - Laura Haung
"A lot of times our hard work leaves us frustrated because we put in the hard work and the success and outcomes still go to someone else." - Laura Huang
"You take two different people who work equally as hard and one will inevitably be more successful than the other. And it's because success and outcomes are not always based on hard work." - Laura Huang
"We're all stereotyped and the world is driven by stereotypes and perceptions. And we can flip those stereotypes in our favor. We can create our own edge and we can create our own advantage and make our hard work work harder for us." - Laura Huang
"I wanted to talk about the fact that failures happen and we are going to feel bitter and jaded." - Laura Huang
"Instead, when you feel embarrassed - that's when you should double down. You should be putting yourself in exactly that type of circumstance again." - Laura Huang
"You've got to prune to grow just like a tree - you're trying to grow. And people think about growing as getting bigger and more and better and all these things. But you've got to prune in order to grow taller." - Laura Huang
Chris Snyder [00:00:43] Hello, everyone. Chris Snyder here, host of the Snyder Showdown, president at Juhll Agency, and founder of fintech startup Banks.com. On this show, we take a no B.S. approach to business success and failure, told through the stories of the top executives and founders who have lived them. Join us today as we get the unfiltered backstories behind successful people and successful brands. Quick message from our sponsor. Juhll is a full-service digital growth consultancy, and we focus on helping entrepreneurs, founders and executives solve their toughest digital growth problems. We do this while working as an extension of the executive team. To learn more, you can go to Juhll dot com. That's Juhll.com. Or you can email me directly – it’s email@example.com. OK, without further ado, today's guest is Laura Huang. She's an Associate Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School and author of the book Edge: Turning Adversity into Advantage. Her research has been featured in the Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today and Forbes. Laura has won a number of awards for her research, including a 2016 Kauffman Foundation Fellowship and was named one of the 40 Best Business School Professors Under the Age of 40 by Poets and Quants. Welcome, Laura.
Laura Huang [00:02:13] Thank you. It's a pleasure to be here.
Chris Snyder [00:02:16] I'm so glad you're here. You know, I saw a presentation from you on This Week in Startups, Launch.co With Jason Calacanis and his crew super pumped to have you here. I had to have you on the show. Before we talk about the book and what you've been up to, let's tell our audience a little bit about your upbringing, where you grew up and how you feel like you got to where you are today.
Laura Huang [00:02:41] Yeah. Yeah, thanks. Well, first of all, thank you for checking me out on all those things. Jason's a good guy. Beneath that hard exterior, there's a softy inside there. So, so good to hear that you were able to enjoy enjoying a couple of those. And yeah, it's a pleasure to sort of be here. I mean, when you talk a little bit about my sort of upbringing and how I got here. I mean, I think, you know, my upbringing was really just I was well, I was brought up by I was a child of immigrants. Both my parents were immigrants from Taiwan. And so I think that really impacted a lot of who I am and where I am, sort of that immigrant mentality. But I also, you know, I think there was also this piece of it that was very much this individual piece of it where they didn't quite know where I came from because, you know, it was from a really young age. It was sort of always drilled into me like work hard, work hard, work hard and ends and, you know, but and sort of have a path and have a purpose. Know what it is you want to do. What are your goals? But I really didn't I didn't have a goal. I didn't have a purpose. I didn't know what I wanted to be when I grew up. And that sort of really frustrated, I think, my parents when I was younger. You know, there are some people who have known what they've wanted to be since they were five years old. They've wanted to be a doctor since they were five years older. They wanted to be a teacher since they were five years old. And I never knew I always had to make up an answer to that question. Whenever people would ask. And so I think it's been a lot of how I've got to where I am now is that I've always sort of just gone from one thing to the next. And when there's an opportunity, I sort of just take it if it seems interesting. And if it doesn't, I don't. But there really wasn't ever any clear trajectory or narrative. And so I think that's why I've also worked in so many different industries and in so many different roles. I've worked in banking and in consulting. And I was a teacher and I was you know, I worked in general management and pharmaceuticals and went to business school, was an engineer by training and now I'm a professor. So I think I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up. I know that I want to be a professor when I grow up. Well, you're hard like hearing that, but I don't know that I want to be a professor when I grow up.
Chris Snyder [00:05:10] Were your parents entrepreneurial or what were they up to?
Laura Huang [00:05:14] You know, I think they were entrepreneurial, but they never really got to act upon it. I think they you know, both of them were my dad was a physicist. My mom was a computer science scientist. And they both came here for sort of opportunities and schooling and really didn't ever feel like they had that sort of choice. But I remember growing up that a lot of times I would sort of see them in their careers, I. That also impacted a lot of what I've become, too, because I saw my dad, for instance, getting turned down for promotion after promotion, after promotion. And that really impacted me because, you know, during one of these promotions, he was actually doing the job of his boss. That person wasn't qualified to be doing that job. And everyone sort of knew it. And so I knew that there was something around this myth of meritocracy, even at a young age, even though I didn't have a word for it or I didn't quite know how to put a finger on what it actually was. But these were sort of things that I had experienced and seen even from a young age. I think a lot of that influenced the research I ended up doing later on in my career and the research that I do now and the perspective and the types of, you know, practical strategies and tips and how-tos that I try and give to organizations and CEOs and leaders in how they operate within their companies and their jobs.
Chris Snyder [00:06:50] Yeah. So there's a part in the book, and I forget how old you were. I think maybe around 10 that you had tested into some gifted and talented classes. And math. Yes, but language arts, I believe we are excellent at No. At what point? Because I have a 10-year-old daughter. Yeah. At what point do you start to really sit back? And realize that maybe it's not is fair or is just or the world isn't based on a meritocracy. Like we all say, or we need to start to reframe how we even think about that. How old were you when you started to realize maybe I need to start doing stuff differently to get through this?
Laura Huang [00:07:40] Yeah, I mean, I think there's so much there. There's so much in that. I mean, like the first thing, the story that you're sort of talking about. Yeah. I mean, it was really this instance where I didn't know any better. I was young. We don't quite - we know that there's sort of this feeling that doesn't quite sit right. Like that doesn't quite feel right or something feels wrong here. But we don't know what to call it. And in that particular circumstance, I didn't know. My parents didn't know. We basically had to take standardized tests every single year. And what happened was that I was you know, I was in this public school district and they got all of our scores back. And they said to me, like, something's wrong here. Like, we've never your scores. The state mandates that you are in gifted and talented based on the scores. But we've never had anyone at our school who has gotten into gifted and talented. Based on testing. It's always been teacher recommendation. Yeah. Teacher referrals. So something must be wrong. So they said, they said, OK, so we need to have you take another series of tests to make sure that we know what's happening. So I had to go through another huge battery of tests and then again tested high enough to like place into gifted and talented. And so then they brought my parents in and they were sort of like, you know, something is wrong here because she tested into gifted and talented. But there's no way we can put her into gifted and talented for reading and language arts. So we're only going to put her into gifted and talented for math. And it was the first time that they had ever split it up where somebody wasn't allowed to go into the program. And instead, I had to get pulled out of certain classes to go into these prep, which is super embarrassing for me that I would get pulled out and then put back into the normal class and then pulled out and put back in instead of being in this program. And, you know, there's this thing that I talk a lot in my book about, which is how life rides and how we have these experiences. And then, later on, we realize we have similar experiences or we face or feel the same kind of emotions or feelings, and we realize that it rhymes with something else we experience. And I remember being in college and there was this university writing course that was a required course. It was called UWC and everyone had to take it as a college freshman. And I was in that class and the very first assignments I got back and I saw an F at the top and I was like, what was going on? Like, I can't be that bad of a writer that I got an F. And I went to the professor and sort of, you know, was like, oh, I just wanted to kind of ask, like, what was what happened and why I got an F. And he said to me, like, you know, it's totally fine. Don't worry about this, since you don't speak English fluently. It's totally fine that you got an ass. Wow. The purpose of this course and the purpose of this course is to help you with your writing and your language skills over the course of this semester. And so I had that same feeling, that same feeling of. But I do speak English. Why can't I be in the gifted and talented program for English and math? You know, it was that same sort of feeling. And so I remember that I then did for the second assignment, the second writing assignment, I wrote this entire essay about how grateful I was to this professor and this course for helping me develop my English skills and for helping me develop my writing skills. And the professor didn't detect any sarcasm at all, even though it was totally sarcastic. Yeah. And I got a B minus.
Chris Snyder [00:11:34] He would have failed the test, honestly, because you're being completely sarcastic. This is really I mean, look, you can look at it two ways. And the thing that I like about your book is somehow you've been able to turn what I perceived to be a lot of these negative situations you could have given up. But instead, you've managed to flip it.
Laura Huang [00:11:59] Oh, yeah. Anything like what was I going to do? Like, a lot of times when we talk about this meritocracy and this myth of meritocracy. This thing is like going back to what I was taught and what a lot of us are taught from a young age. It's like work hard, work hard, work hard. Your hard work will speak for itself. But the thing is, we come to this point where we realize. No, it won't. Hard work alone is not enough. It's critical. I would never say that hard work is not critical, but hard work alone is not enough. A lot of times are hard work leaves us frustrated because we put in the hard work and the success and outcomes still go to someone else. Yeah. You take two different people who work equally as hard and one will inevitably be more successful than the other. And it's because success and outcomes are not always based on hard work. They're often based on things like perceptions and signals and stereotypes and cues. And so, you know, I recognize that even though it's about these, even though we recognize this, that what was I going to do? I had this professor. I couldn't not take this required course. And so I had to be - I had to manage his perceptions. I had to manage his stereotypes and his perceptions and his attributions and really flip them in our favor. And so when I was even thinking about writing this book, I actually didn't think about writing this book for a really long time. But I had been doing research and looking at inequality and perceptions and signals. And people kept asking me, like, what can we do about this? Are there ways that we can level the playing field or are there ways that we can manage the perceptions of others? And all of the solutions that I saw were structural solutions. They were things where organizations could try and make things more equitable or, you know, universities could try and get professors to be more fair with their students. But as an individual, that doesn't really help you as you're waiting around. So these systems to change and they either change too slowly or not in the ways that we intend them to. And so the book really the last couple of years of my research has all been about as individuals, how do we understand how others see us so that we can slip this in our favor? And it's not just based on things like gender or race or accent or anything. It's all of us. All of us have something because we're being perceived by others. And, you know, I remember talking I'm talking to Ronan Farrow, who was saying to me that, like, he is the epitome of like what? Like white cis male privilege. Like he notices - he's like, I know that I'm the epitome of white cis male privilege. My mother is Mia Farrow. And but yet I have judgments made about me all of the time as well. Like, I walk into a room and people are thinking, like, you're not even a good writer, you don't deserve your puberty surprise. You got to where you are because of who your mother is, you know. So everyone has to understand how others see them and be able to hone your ability to see those perceptions so that you can slip those stereotypes in your favor. And that's really what this book is about is that it's understanding that hard work alone is not enough, that there that we're all stereotyped and the world is driven by stereotypes and perceptions. And we can flip those stereotypes in our favor. We can create our own edge and we can create our own advantage and make our hard work harder for us.
Chris Snyder [00:15:36] Yeah, no, that's super interesting. And it almost feels like. Did you did it feel like this happened a lot as you were growing up and then as you got older and got more into education, you were like, wait a second, this continues to happen. That's how the topic of turning adversity into advantage. Is that why you wrote the book or why did you write the book?
Laura Huang [00:16:03] I mean, there's a couple of different reasons. I mean, one, it was I was really writing the book for anyone who's felt like they're sort of pushing the same levers over and over and over again, but really frustrated because they're finding that they have all of these aspirations.
Chris Snyder [00:16:17] So were you frustrated? Were you frustrated?
Laura Huang [00:16:19] Yeah, I was. I was frustrated. And, you know, but I also realized that, you know, part of it was that we had these aspirations and we try and reach them, but we start to become bitter and jaded. Yes. And so I wanted an antidote to that, like in that that there was some that there's a way to empower yourself. The other thing is that I also recognize that a lot of times, you know, you speak about like as a child. Right. But there's so many times right now as like parents, I see so many examples of parents who are trying to give their kids an advantage. Right. We see like cases where parents are trying to buy their kids ways into college. Right. Like paying people to take standardized tests for their kids, like, you know, all of these sort of like illegal things. But on a more like benign and legal way, there's also parents who are paying for extra tutoring, extra coaching, extracurricular activities. We love our children and we want to give them an advantage. But what I was as I was writing the book, I realized that and I started to understand more about the fact that, like, we try we fight so hard to give our kids an advantage and maybe they'll give them an advantage on one or two dimensions, like it will get them into college. But you're not teaching them how to create their own edge for themselves. You're not teaching them how to understand the way that other people are going to uniquely see them so that they can, in whatever context they're in, whatever environment they're in, that they know how to dynamically be showing how they provide value and showing how they're delightful and how they can guide things in their favor and how they can empower themselves to create an advantage. And if we teach our kids, that's so much more powerful. It gives them their own tools to have a perspective about who they are, which is going to be really different from who you are, even though they're your child. But it's going to give you a perspective on things that uniquely are so that they can create their own unique edge. So I found that that was like another really that that was a big piece of it as I was writing the book that I was really picturing, you know, people who are graduating from college or parents who are trying to help their kids hone and create their own edge. In addition to all of these aspirational individuals in the workplace as entrepreneurs that are in their personal lives, that are really trying to get achieve those goals that they're trying to achieve. And so in a lot of those ways, I mean, that the book the other funny thing about like who I wrote this for the book is like formerly in the success section of the bookstore. Yeah. And the funny thing, though, is that the last chapter is like very, very almost negative in a way. And so my publisher originally was like, your last chapter is so negative for a book that's about success. And I was really, you know, I wanted because I wanted to be realistic, too, like I wanted to talk about the fact that failures happen and we are going to feel bitter and jaded. And so that last chapter is around, like understanding that, you know, we are going to have this bitterness, like asking yourself this question of like how is this making me better and not bitter, recognizing that we are going to have those wounds instead of thinking about it as wounds. How does that allow us to build scar tissue so that we can continue to hone and create our own edge for achieving things that we want to achieve? And so there is that positive piece of it. But I do talk a lot about bitterness and jaded because I was very bitter and jaded about lots of things as well.
Chris Snyder [00:20:15] And I can speak for my business partner and I, who's also you know, my wife. And we have kids as well. There's when you're an entrepreneur especially, you get bitter and jaded fast on a daily basis.
Laura Huang [00:20:31] You like extreme highs and extreme lows all the same day.
Chris Snyder [00:20:34] It happens a lot. And if you sit in that chair long enough, you know, 12, 15 years, you realize it's not easy. And is it going to get easier or does it just continue to get harder? And I think what you're saying, and I've read a lot about this as well, just to manage, you know, being an entrepreneur, it's your perception of how you interpret these things. It's the context and the framing and the understanding of the bias and the understanding of these different perceptions around you that hopefully books like yours and other books that are written on the topic or coach's business coaches, advisors, it will help you flip it into a way that, look, I know that person didn't treat me well. I know I deserve the promotion. I know I should've got funded by that v.c or yet Angel instead of somebody else. And here we are. But this stuff will eat you alive if you don't treat it properly. You just be a bitter, jaded human being.
Laura Huang [00:21:38] Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. So I think it's important that we acknowledge the sort of biases and stereotypes that are out there, but also acknowledging that that's part of the power. Right. The fact that, like, there are things that, you know, if everything was decided just based on quantitative black and white scores, it also, you know, rather than these perceptions and soft factors, then we wouldn't also have that power to take those perceptions and soft factors and turn those into our underestimated strengths. Right. So it's really about. Understanding how people see us so that we can take those strands says underestimated strength as weakness is whatever they see about us and use that to our favor. And that's the piece that really allows us to try to to to make our hard work work harder for us. But a key component of this is really guiding people and being and knowing the tools and the strategies and the ways in which you guide and redirect people to who you authentically are.
Chris Snyder [00:22:49] Yeah, I want to talk about constraint constraints really quick, because I actually listen to this part this morning and it flipped the trigger with me. Working on multiple clients over the last 12 or 15 years and a couple of those quite large clients in the financial services space set up incubators or innovation labs, quote-unquote. And in hindsight, when I took those deals and we did that work for the agency, both of them bombed, bombed miserably, and it was a disaster. But the reason why, though, is because and that's why I want to talk about constraints. The reason why those particular engagements were not successful. It goes directly to a point in your book where. People need constraints and without constraints, there's no challenge, there's no innovation. You'll have to solve the problem. But I was like, oh, bingo. That's why these companies are failing, is because they have limited resources. They have unlimited firepower. They have unlimited funds. They're not forced into a situation where they have to create and create a solution out of a constraint and even identify the problem. So can you talk about that constraint as well?
Laura Huang [00:24:23] Well, I mean, I think it's so key because a lot of these companies, right, we see all of these mass we see lots of these large companies having corporate incubators. Right. Incubators that belong to them. So Microsoft, Intel, Google, all these companies, because what they got, what they recognize is that they're acquiring companies or acquiring startups. They're trying to acquire new technologies and tools. And they have to pay a lot of money for them because they have to go outside their company to look for all of these different things. So what all these companies started doing was creating corporate incubators where they would innovate from within. You create a separate department or a separate incubator where they say, OK, like here are the sorts of technologies that we want to be developing. Let's have this within our company so that we can then cherry-pick those later on. And we have first dibs on these kinds of tools and technologies. And so but what happened, what they realized was that these incubators were actually a massive failure and they would still have to go outside of the company to get the kind of tools and innovations that were really going to be interesting for that, because these incubators within they knew that they were sort of owned by Google or owned by Intel or owned by Microsoft, that they were getting the funding from these people, the resources, the know-how. And all of those innovations then were really similar to what Microsoft was doing and how Microsoft was thinking or how Intel ran their business. And so they were actually innovative. They didn't have the sort of constraints that normal startups have where they're like, who's our customer going to be? What kind of competitors are there? We need to move quickly. We need to be able to do lots of different things. We need to. They didn't have the same kind of constraints. And so they, you know, when you're almost in this overly cushy kind of environment, you're going to be too close to what. So it was really it had this unintended effect where Google thought they were going to be getting exactly what they wanted. But because they delivered with exactly what they thought Google wanted. Google was like, this isn't special. This isn't what we need. This isn't helping us go forward in in in where we're trying to go in the future. And so I think a lot of companies struggle with this as they try and grow and scale. A lot of companies also don't think about this in terms of their own employees and how disruptive and how innovative their own employees could be. A lot of companies have asked me. They're like, yeah, well, like, you know, this stuff on how you gain an edge. That's for individuals. Like that's their own motivation. This doesn't work out why me as a company. But there is tremendous are why for companies and CEOs to have employees who feel empowered to feel happier and more productive, because that's when you can shift circumstances in your favor when you can shift circumstance in your favor as an individual. That's when they're also going to be guiding their own paths and their own trajectories from within the company, like innovating on different ways of doing things and different products in different markets, just like startups are able to do when they're outside of companies and not part of this incubator that's forcing them to kind of think in a singular way. So constraints actually give us this sort of power. It forces us to think differently and it forces us to be more productive. It forces us to figure out ways for us to work harder in different ways. And so I think it's something that we don't always think about. We all often just think about trying to eliminate constraints. The other thing that I talk about, the way that I put it also explain it to my students is I don't know if you've got to this part on Audible. Because you said you were listening to it on audible. The $5 Exercise.
Chris Snyder [00:28:17] I did, I got to that part. That was amazing almost to do that to my kids. By the way, you are books, five books. Let's see you come up with. But go on.
Laura Huang [00:28:27] Yeah. Yeah. So basically I do this exercise with my students where I, they get put in teams and each of them gets an envelope with five dollars or twenty dollars or whatever small amount of money. And the goal is that the project is that within a week you have to start some sort of a venture, some sort of a profit. Making endeavor. And at the end of the week, you have to come back and you have to tell me how much you earned. You're free to pay back your startup capital. If you would. If you'd like. But you have to kind of present to the class what it is and how much you make. What your profit. Yes. And so company lots of these teams come back with, like, things that we think about, like car washes. Right. So they use the 20 dollars to buy soap and sponges and things and they run a car wash and they come back with a couple of hundred dollars in profits. Bake-sales. Right. For baking materials and ingredients. And they come back with, you know, a couple of hundred dollars in it. And so we get lots of those kinds of companies. But the discovery that we make is that the teams that do the best are the ones that never open the envelope at all or never use that money at all. Trender, the reason why is because when we see that 20 dollars, that also becomes a constraint. It becomes how we think about like, OK, this is the money. We have to buy the materials or buy whatever it is we need. So we only start thinking about, like, what are the types of profit-making endeavors? Can we do it with twenty dollars? The companies or the teams that do the best are the ones that think beyond that. They don't use the money at all. So for example, I had teams where they all videotaped each other for 30 seconds on a special skill that they had, and then they sold tickets to a presentation where people could learn these really quirky and new skills.
Chris Snyder [00:30:28] Sounds like Master Class, a $5 version of Master Class.
Laura Huang [00:30:33] Exactly. Another team did this thing where they did a running dinner where you would pay a small you would pay the amount of money to be a part of this networking events and you would choose to either host people for appetizer main course or dessert. And so before each meal, you'd get a text message telling you the address of where to go. And then you would go to this. If you were an appetizer, you would make the appetizer be networking and meeting these new people. Then you'd go to dinner and somebody else would be preparing dinner for you or have dinner served for you. Then you'd go somewhere else for dinner at the end of it. You'd get a text message of a bar where you'd all meet up and you could, like, talk to whoever you met at the different meals and reconnect and all these sorts of things. And so they made a tremendous amount of money. They didn't have to cook anything. They didn't have to pay for any location. And they basically pop pocketed all this profit. And people loved it. They loved how it was like a way of meeting new people and that were great. And so, like all of these types of ideas come about that makes so much more money and are so much more interesting. When you're not limited, you're not limited by that five dollars or that those 20 dollars.
Chris Snyder [00:31:43] I'd like to get your comment on the dichotomy, however, between so the old saying no pain, no gain. Right. That's a really old saying. Or, you know, without pain, there's no progress. Yeah. And then there's other you Maslow's Hierarchy of need type stuff where when people don't feel safe. Yeah. They don't perform as well. And I feel like it's a little bit of a dichotomy when you say, hey, here's an innovation lab. Not you. All of us as we think about this. Here's an innovation lab with unlimited resources. A brand that is one of the top 10 brands in the world. Yeah, people are safe. But in order for them to innovate, I feel like they have to have constraints, which I know feels like the VCR. Do that. And it feels like the angel investors do that. They say here's twenty-five grand or here's a hundred grand. And if you don't make it work, you're all dead. Like the business implodes and you go away. You've got this weird. Is there some kind of balance between people knowing that they're safe? They know that their children are going to be taken care of. They know they have health insurance. They know that they have just enough to move this forward without the threat of total peril. Yeah. Is there a dichotomy here?
Laura Huang [00:33:11] Yeah. I mean, this thing is about this is that like we're really not good as humans at having two conflicting thoughts in our head at the same time, like, we're really not great at this sort of cognitive dissonance around. Like we're uncomfortable. But yet we want to be comfortable. There's pain, but there's us. But I also need to have this game like it has to be pain leads to gain or a comfortable and then we're able to thrive. Like, we're not good at sort of holding these simultaneous conflicting thoughts in our head. And so part of having an edge when I talk about like So Edge is the title of the book. It's about how do you gain an edge? But Edge actually stands for the frameworks that I've developed through the course of my research where the e d g e they all stand for the E stands for enrich. Yeah. And it's about how do you enrich and provide value in any sort of context that you're going to be in. But recognizing at the same time that even though you enrich and provide value, that sometimes you don't always have the opportunity to show others how you enrich and provide value. Right. There's those that dichotomy. And so you the D stands for a delight, which is when you're able to delight someone or delight your counterpart. That's the equivalent of being able to crack that door open just a little bit so that you're able to then show them how you enrich and provide value. And so when you're able to sort of do that, you start to hone people's ability to see how you enrich and provide value in the G stands for Guide. Because even when you enrich and deLites, you need to continue to guide people's perceptions of who you are and the value you provide. And the final E stands for effort, effort, and hard work. It comes last. Right. As we've talked about, even though we think hard work comes first, that hard work will speak for itself. In fact, when you know how you enrich and delight and guide, that's when your effort and hard work work harder for you. And so when we think about this sort of dichotomy in what's happening here, it's that a lot of times, for example, we know that there's going to be failure. We know that there's going to be drawdowns. But at this. And so we say to ourselves, like, yes, there's going to be failure. There's good. I just need to continue pushing ahead. And in spite of the failure of trying. But yet, at the same time, a lot of times we have failure. And the most common experience we have with failure is embarrassment. We feel embarrassed or something about our pride feels hurt. And so when we feel embarrassed by something, what we normally do. Ninety-five percent of the time is we say to ourselves, never again. Never again will I put myself in that situation where I feel embarrassment like that again. Instead, when you feel embarrassed - that's when you should double down. You should be putting yourself in exactly that type of circumstance again. So you feel the same type of embarrassment. Because the more you're embarrassed, the more you start to gather. There's data. There's data in that embarrassment. You start to learn things around like or even ask yourself questions like why was I embarrassed by that? When this person wouldn't have been embarrassed at all? Or why are other people embarrassed in those situations when I wouldn't be as well at all? And so you start to notice things about your beliefs and your values and things that help you understand that failure and that embarrassment in a different way. And that comes back, in turn, to help you think about what your basic goods are and how you and rich and provide value and starts to help you keep these simultaneous constraints and progress both in your head at the same time so that you can continue to do the things that you're looking. That you're looking to do. So that's sort of how I talk about it in the book. Is that these pieces of it that you. Want to be thinking about how you and rich and delight and guide so that your effort and hard work to work harder for you.
Chris Snyder [00:37:23] There's quite a bit of psychoanalysis in this. And honestly, you know, behavioral, psychological. Do you have any recommendations? Because what I feel like now is if we all had a lot more education at a younger age on how to interpret and create our edge. Right. So if you're shy or you're a little introverted and you walk into a space, whether it's a party or whether it's a playground, if you're a kid, would you agree that there needs to be some training or some way for individuals to start to interpret framing, context, signaling? Is that something that we should be looking at a little bit more closely to allow people to get inside their own head and create this edge? How can we learn more about this?
Laura Huang [00:38:19] Yeah. What you're really talking about is what I, what I, what I, what I speak a lot about in terms of like honing your intuition, like honing your personal intuition, because what you're really what you really want to do is hone your ability to understand how others are perceiving you. Really personal thing, because you change one variable, like you change the industry that you're operating and or you change the mix of people that you're interacting with. And those perceptions are going to differ. You can be the same exact person, but you put me in a different industry and they're going to be perceiving in very, very different ways. And so you need to be able to hone your ability to see how others see you both as an individual and your own traits, but as well as those contextual sort of factors where you're able to do that. That's when you're able to then be able to flip those. So I think there is an education component in it. So there's a number of different sort of things that this is reminding you of. The first is like sometimes people come to me and they're like, well, what is the what are the five steps that it would take to it for me to gain my edge? And I love that. Like, I wish I could give you a formula to be like step one, do this. That to do instead. That education piece that you're talking about is the perspective that I try and share in my book. It's learning a perspective and the fact that you need to know how you enrich and provide value and how you delight and how you guide and how your effort works for you when you're able to make that really authentically about you. That's when you're going to get your own unique edge. And it's going to be so much more powerful. So it is really about the education, around the perspective so that you can do it yourself. But in addition to that, there are lots of different tools and tactics and strategies that I have in the book for how to take that perspective and then really make it yours. So I'll give you an example of one of the things that I do. It's so it's an exercise, for example, that you can do, which is called the Ten No's Exercise. OK. And I do this with my students and with the students have to do is over the course of a week. Again, they have to have get ten people to say no to them. Really. It has to be a full no, it can't be a yes. You can't be like, oh, I can't do that. I'll do this.
Chris Snyder [00:40:37] Do you want to send them over here and let them sit in my chair for a while? I'll give them ten nos in about ten minutes.
Laura Huang [00:40:43] But the thing is, the nos that you're getting are all a very specific type of no. And so we talk about what kinds of nos do you typically get, what type of nos are you trying to now gAnd so part of the what we discover so what they have to do is over the course of the week, they have to write a paragraph about each no that they get and at the end of the week, they have to come ready to present one of their notes and we discover all sorts of different things. For example, we discovered that we're always in a position of getting to yes, we're trying. So even when you get nos, you're trying to get that person to say yes. And so we're constantly trying to get people to say yes to us, to like us, to agree with us. So all of our interactions all over the ways that we interact with others is all around trying to get them to agree with us and like us. And so that's how that's the style of the tone we use, the style of communication we use. That's how our facial expressions have been trained all around, trying to get people to say yes to us. When the assignment now is, you have to get people to say no to you.
Chris Snyder [00:41:55] So, Laura, I see a trend here with you. Harvard, Harvard wrote a book a long time ago that says getting to. Yes. Yeah, you mentioned it a little bit. I know you've read that book. I'm sure you have, by the way, one of the best data back books of all time. And now yours is the first best. But you continuously do is you flip this. So you tell your class, which, by the way, I might tell my kids to do this or people I meet or people on my team. I'm like, you know what? Guys don't. Go out and try to get a yes, go get nos.
Laura Huang [00:42:32] Yeah, probably got to look at me like I'm crazy. I'm like, no, go find someone to tell, you know? That must be liberating from a psychology standpoint, though, right?
Laura Huang [00:42:41] You also, you mix it up, too, because we've been building up this muscle for so long around, like getting to. Yes. That we don't even know how people really see us because it's so disappointing. It's just turning into now. You weren't like who I'm going to now. What kind of reactions am I going? Why am I picking these people rather than these people? Why are these people now responding to me in this way rather than this guy? And you start to hone your intuition around how you see others, how others see you, how they in a very, very different way. And this then allows you then to be able to slip. Right. So I talked. I think I talked to you. I think you heard me talk about, you know, for example, older employees. Now, when older employees are trying to get jobs or trying to get raises or whatever, the lay perception is that older employees, for example, are not as technologically skilled or technology ideologically advanced or whatever. But in fact, what I find in my research and what people discover when they start to Holland is sort of perception is that there is only one underlying attribution, one only that we make about that. Older employees. And that's curiosity - that they're not as curious. So then when I tell these older employees before going into a job interview, for example, the one impression they have about me is that you're not as curious. I didn't hear them saying things like I'm curious about your strategy and how it's evolved over time. I'm curious about your company's vision and how it's being impacted by the current state of affairs. And not only are they rated higher in terms of curiosity, they're rated higher in terms of technological proficiency and they're more likely to get the job. You can only start to guide people's perceptions and redirect things when you have an understanding of what those underlying perceptions are about you. And you do that by building this muscle, by taking this perspective and really making it view based on who you are and the context in the industry so that you can flip these circumstances and create your own edge.
Chris Snyder [00:44:47] So would you would it be fair to say that if you're old, that's a constraint?
Laura Huang [00:44:54] It can be. It's a stereotype that others may have about you that could create a different type of or different obstacle is not necessarily constrained, but is certainly an obstacle that you can then try and flip in your favor.
Chris Snyder [00:45:08] Okay. But instead of being bitter and saying I'm old, then all the millennials don't like me. Why don't you try to understand why you're not being perceived the same way? And it's not anybody's fault. It's just you figured out that the data shows probably through surveys and research. Well, look, it's not about being old. It's about being curious. Yeah. And I mean, there's a lot of older folks that I work with, you know, CEOs of companies that are 65 years old that are as curious or more curious than you and I are. It's unbelievable. Some of the things that they pick up, you know. Yeah. Asking me about ticktock. I'm like, I don't really think I'll tick tock. How old are you anyway?
Laura Huang [00:45:56] I mean, it's certainly I mean, it's certainly not that there's no fault. I mean, there is fault. But what are you going to do about it right now? Who are making these executions? Yes, they're at fault. But you can't go in there and say, I know it's because I'm older that you think X, Y, and Z. But what you can do is get at those underlying perceptions so that you can change those perceptions and attributions. And they still hold on to all of those positive attributes that they have about you. And so that you are providing some really true value when they see you as someone who is curious because you are your paint pointing them to your curiosity, as well as all of the experience and skills and everything that you what you're bringing into this. So it's really allowing you to flip the system on its head. And like, instead of letting the system put you at a disadvantage or working within it, it's people who are able to empower themselves even within an imperfect system.
Chris Snyder [00:47:00] All right, Laura, I want to keep you on time. I know you're a busy person with a busy schedule and you're working within some constraints. So last question so we can get you out of here in time. If you had to give any piece of advice to our listeners and our audience, what would that advice be? These are executives, founders, entrepreneurs.
Laura Huang [00:47:22] Yeah, it's tough. I mean, there's so much that I like you. Now heard me talking. You know how verbose I am. But one I saw I have so many, but one is probably around like keeping the main thing, the main thing. Like we get so caught up on this, like what's urgent versus what's important versus what's urgent to get like we get all of these constant things that are coming to us keeping that main thing. Like, if you know what that crux is and this is where companies who are trying to grow in scale, a lot of times I tell them you've got to prune to grow just like a tree, like you trying to grow. And the people try and think about growing is getting bigger and more and better and all these things. But you've got to prune in order to grow taller. And so if you keep focusing on that main thing in my book, I talk about it as basic goods. If you keep focusing on what are your basic goods, what are those main things that allow you then to dynamically improvise and grow in scale in any sort of opportunity that you might identify. And that's where that luck meets opportunity piece because you've kept the main thing, the main thing. You haven't been bogged down by all of these extra things that are taking you in various different directions.
Chris Snyder [00:48:29] Yeah, that is wise words for entrepreneurs. I've experienced not keeping the main thing, the main thing myself. So do that for sure. So, Laura, associate professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School and author of the book, one of the best books I've read in recent memory. Edge: Turning Adversity into Advantage. Laura, thank you so much for being on the show. We'll have to do it again sometime soon, maybe deep dove a little bit more into some of these comments.
Laura Huang [00:48:59] Thank you, I would love to. It would be really fun to deep dive more on this with you. So thanks so much.
Chris Snyder [00:49:04] Thanks a lot, Laura. You have a great day.
Laura Huang [00:49:06] You too. Take care. OK, buh-bye.