Sometimes you record a podcast and forget all about it! This one from last year just went live… and while I no longer work in an emerging market, I developed a new awareness. Listening to the recording made me realize that in many ways, life is an emerging market. Here are four reapplications from China to life, gleaned from the INSEAD Emerging Markets podcast.


It’s true, I accepted a job offer and went to China sight unseen. Why? I love the stretch! See, I knew that leading Apple retail marketing in Asia was a dream job. Honestly, was I going to see anything on a look-see trip that would sway me? Unlikely. So even before Day One, my family and I began to stretch. We said ‘yes’ and prepared to relocate. Soon we found ourselves approaching each day with a growth mindset. We learned to:

  • View challenges with a sense of optimism. In fact, as we did so, we found that we either pushed the needle towards a positive outcome by sheer force of happy will or more easily accepted unpleasant outcomes with amiable contentment.
  • Approach new experiences with a learning mindset. You know, this requires a degree of humility. We have to be comfortable admitting we’re not an expert, that are lots of things we don’t know. But we learn quicker and have a lot more fun along the way!

On the second point, I believe we give ourselves unnecessary pressure when we feel the need to be an expert. Because if we think about it, very few people are truly the expert in any one area… we’re all learning. In fact, embracing every opportunity to exercise agility while learning, changes our posture. We being to look expansively outward vs. shrinking inwardly in protective anxiety.

The same is true in life, no? If we approach challenges with optimism and view new experiences with a learning mindset, we’ll stretch and grow, no matter where we are!

Marc-Olivier Jodoin photo

The 3 E’s of China Marketing

  1. Experiential – Chinese consumers have extremely high expectations on being proactively immersed in relevant, awe-inspiring experiences. Pushing being communication, how do we create experiences at every touchpoint?
  2. Engaging – We shouldn’t be in the business of “marketing” anymore. Instead, our job is to delight and thrill consumers in ways they hadn’t even imagined!
  3. Expeditious – In this blindingly fast-changing economy, everyone expects immediate, seamless, consistent delivery of promises made. Designing an amazing engagement is worth nothing if people click away before getting to experience it.

Clearly these 3 E’s extend beyond China. After all, who isn’t seeking engaging experiences, delivered seamlessly, consistently, and delightfully? Photos of our family enjoying a teamLab experience in Shanghai.

Chang family at teamLab in Shanghai

P.A.V.E Leadership

I love podcasts because answers need to come stream-of-consciousness style. When asked about my leadership style, I kind of like what came out of my mouth. The fact that the four points make an acronym is cool, the fact that they’re about paving the way to deeper, more meaningful relationships, is even better! And they definitely apply in the U.S. as well as in China:

Personal – I intentionally bring my kids to work and share parts of my family life. That’s because I’ve found that openness breaks down walls and dispels assumptions created by titles and distance (especially in a hybrid work environment!)

Authentic – While it’s not always comfortable or easy to bring our whole self to work, I’ve found that being authentic is paramount to building trust. And trust is foundational to building meaningful relationships.

Vulnerable – In order to be real, we need to take off the mask. Sure, it may feel risky to admit I don’t know the answer or appear unknowledgeable , but this type of honesty can also garner engagement and fosters collaboration.

Engaged – We need to be visible and available to people. I realize this doesn’t come naturally with busy schedules. So, leaders need to carve out time for casual connection. BTW engagement means demonstrating care, even outside of work hours.

okeykat photo from unsplash

Purple People Pizza

When I’m hiring, what kind of people do I look for? Purple people are made up of blue and red; they’re Chinese and American, a blend of East and West. And more than being just bilingual, purple people understand both cultures. They understand commonalities and differences between the cultures, which enables them to serve as an effective bridge between organizations. I believe purple people are a critical success driver for international companies operating in China.

purple pizza people image

To identify great purple people, it’s important to check for cultural fit, along with skill sets. You see, our job is to look for the AND – to identify the outstanding leader who brings the capabilities we need and fits the team beautifully.

This is where the pizza comes in. When I say ‘fit’, it doesn’t mean everyone should look or act the same. And it doesn’t mean everyone is well-rounded. Because imagine a truly well-rounded individual… they may look kind of like a marble. And how do a handful of marbles fit together?

They don’t! Each marble sits alongside the next and left unchecked, they scatter in different directions.

marbles don't fit together

Instead, consider the pizza. The pie is round but each individual slice is sharp. Yes, we all come with our sharp edges, but when our edges fit together, we create a well-rounded team.

Well, those are my four thoughts on marketing in China, which seem entirely applicable to the rest of the world. The importance of stretch, the 3 E’s of marketing, P.A.V.E leadership traits, and the power of purple people pizza (say that three times fast!) Yes indeed, I think w can look at life as an emerging market.

Find more podcasts I’ve done here. And for related articles, check out:

Photo credits: China office workers, Marc-Olivier Jodoin stretch photo, okeykat pave photo, pizza image made on,