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Reinvent Fashion Business With The Superpower Of Doubt

All transformations and progress in human life have happened always with doubt, not with certainty. Doubts lead to questions and we live in a world our questions create. The same is true for any business and you can reinvent fashion business through the same principle.

Doubt is an uncomfortable condition, but certainty is a ridiculous one

Voltaire

“Are we alone in the universe?”

This question led to search of life beyond earth and space exploration. We are benefitted in so many ways in our daily life through such explorations and satellites.

It is our obsession with certainty that leads us astray. All progress takes place in uncertain conditions. We will double-click on this obsession before unraveling how to adapt this to reinvent the fashion business.

The Certainty Obsession

A lot we can learn from rocket science in carrying out missions in our business. Thanks to Vozan Varol, a rocket scientist who was a part of Mars Exploration Rovers project, captured insights from rocket science to real life. The first week of October (4-10 October) marked the World Space Week, and we are at a great juncture to take inspiration from rocket science.

In the critical moments, even the so-called rational rocket scientists wear their worn-out good-luck jeans, doing everything a dedicated sports fan might do to have an illusion of certainty and control.

In the modern world we look for certainty in uncertain situations. We search for order in chaos, conviction in complexity. As Yuval Noah Harari writes “We try to control the world than to understand it”. We are always in search of the hack, the formula. This over time depletes our ability to face the unknown.

The classic story of drunken man searching for lost key under the street lamp at night explains this behavior. Our certainty obsession leads us to pursue safe solution of searching under light than exploring the dark.

The fashion and lifestyle industry has been searching to find the answers to forecast under the light. The light is the current practice of searching for answers through traditional forecast reports, research, data dump provided by some platforms. While we searched for “fashion forecasting”, google returns 46 million plus results and all top pages answer these questions as if “we know it – the light syndrome”. There is no one article on “what is the unknown?”. Why consumers don’t like most of (2/3rd) fashion businesses make?

We can learn from rocket scientists on this.

How Do Rocket Scientists Manage Uncertainty?

Before we get into how rocket scientists manage uncertainty, let us look at types of uncertainties.

Timeless wisdom of Yoda helps here.

Named must your fear be before banish it can

Wisdom of Yoda

It is important for you ask the following questions to uncover the uncertainties.

Writing down your concerns and uncertainties – what you know and what you don’t know undresses them. Once you lift the curtain and start converting unknown unknowns to known unknowns, it is not as fearful as the fear of uncertainty itself.

Questions you may ask,

a) What is the worst case scenario?

b) How likely is that scenario, given what I know?

c) What is the best that can happen?

It is important that you consider both the best and the worst case in choosing to act. As the psychologist Rick Hanson puts it,

Our brain is like Velcro for negative and Teflon for positive

Rick Hanson

The view of the best and worst will start making you take action.

This is reinforced by the chinese proverb

Many a false step is made by standing still

Chinese proverb
how to unravel uncertainties in fashion using a known-unknown matrix
Revealing Uncertainty By Asking Questions | Known unknown Matrix

After you are clear about what you need to be alarmed about, you can take actions. There are two ways in which the rocket scientists face uncertainties.

As the cost of failure in rocket missions are large, they build

a) Redundancy – SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket has 9 engines sufficiently separated to take care if some engines fail to perform. This applies also to computers on the spacecraft. Too much of redundancy is also not favorable as they will eat into each other.

b) Margins Of Safety: In addition to redundancy, rocket scientists build factor of safety for eg. insulation more than required.

Not only that, rocket scientists go back first principles and not stick to the urge of

a) We have always done this way (Our knowledge can be our blinder)

b) They are doing it this way (our genetic urge to follow the herd)

The scientists also practice moonshot thinking. In our earlier edit, we covered how fashion businesses can apply moonshot thinking. You can read the article here.

How To Reinvent Fashion Business Learning From Rocket Science

Fashion business spends more money in the product (25-40% of sales) and discounts (15-30% of sales) than any other area of business.

There can not be any other priority area to ask a question to re-invent the fashion business than the product. The key questions to ask are,

a) What trend / product to make?

b) How much to make?

c) Where and when to send?

The current ways of taking product decisions have not helped the business significantly. This is a clear case of walking an unknown area as long we ask this question

Is there a better way?

The amount of investment and risk of not getting it right is equivalent of a rocket launch every season/cohort of product launch in any fashion and lifestyle brand or retailer.

These are the questions we came up with in 2015 after years of research and experimentation to test a new hypothesis of fashion prediction. We needed a new technology and approach and formed Stylumia. What we now have is a development over last many years of research and implementation at scale.

We try to operate like rocket scientists going through first principles, navigate uncertainty, and continue to evolve. For us, success and failure are both important as they contain a lot of information.

Our proprietary approach and technology is grounded on consumer demand science at an internet-scale. We provide not only what is out there, but what is winning, what are the white spaces for you to build the right redundancies and safety factors in your upcoming ranges.

In rocket science one of the key approaches is

“Test as you fly and fly as you test”

Our prediction engines reflect consumer brain and work on your in-season forecasts to keep you on the planned trajectory or suggest change in approaches.

We are constantly generating new versions of Algorithmic Research Assistant, Algorithmic Buyer Assistant, and Algorithmic Distribution Assistant. The objective is to eliminate wastage due to ill-informed decision making.

We are in constant search of finding the next best way to support and reinvent the fashion business.

In rocket science terminology, we help you launch, accelerate and land.

Those brands and retailers who want to stay ahead of the curve in meeting consumer needs work with us including the fortune 100. Check these customer voices of transformation on success rates tripling (300%). Stylumia Customer Voice 1, Stylumia Customer Voice 2, Stylumia Customer Voice 3

The biggest mistake you will make if you are looking for reinvention is by asking the question, “Is this the common practice?”.

Are you ready for exploring the new world of fashion prediction?

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