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How Common Sense Fails Us

Excerpt From: Duncan J. Watts's Everything Is Obvious. A book I'm currently reading, and highly recommend if this subject matter is of interest to you: How Common Sense Fails Us.

Beginning of chapter 8:


Of all the prognosticators, forecasters, and fortune-tellers, few are at once more confident and yet less accountable than those in the business of predicting fashion trends. Every year, the various industries in the business of designing, producing, selling, and commenting on shoes, clothing, and apparel are awash in predictions for what could be, might be, should be, and surely will be the next big thing. That these predictions are almost never checked for accuracy, that so many trends arrive unforeseen, and that the explanations given for them are only possible in hindsight, seems to have little effect on the breezy air of self-assurance that the arbiters of fashion so often exude. So it’s encouraging that at least one successful fashion company pays no attention to any of it.

That company is Zara, the Spanish clothing retailer that has made business press headlines for over a decade with its novel approach to satisfying consumer demand. Rather than trying to anticipate what shoppers will buy next season, Zara effectively acknowledges that it has no idea. Instead, it adopts what we might call a measure-and-react strategy. First, it sends out agents to scour shopping malls, town centers, and other gathering places to observe what people are already wearing, thereby generating lots of ideas about what might work. Second, drawing on these and other sources of inspiration, it produces an extraordinarily large portfolio of styles, fabrics, and colors—where each combination is initially made in only a small batch—and sends them out to stores, where it can then measure directly what is selling and what isn’t. And finally, it has a very flexible manufacturing and distribution operation that can react quickly to the information that is coming directly from stores, dropping those styles that aren’t selling (with relatively little left-over inventory) and scaling up those that are. All this depends on Zara’s ability to design, produce, ship, and sell a new garment anywhere in the world in just over two weeks—a stunning accomplishment to anyone who has waited in limbo for just about any designer good that isn’t on the shelf.


'What Makes A Man A Man' by Jamie Hawkesworth for Man About Town SS 2014 [Editorial]

'What Makes A Man A Man' by Jamie Hawkesworth for Man About Town SS 2014 0 'What Makes A Man A Man' by Jamie Hawkesworth for Man About Town SS 2014 0 'What Makes A Man A Man' by Jamie Hawkesworth for Man About Town SS 2014 1 'What Makes A Man A Man' by Jamie Hawkesworth for Man About Town SS 2014 1 'What Makes A Man A Man' by Jamie Hawkesworth for Man About Town SS 2014 1 'What Makes A Man A Man' by Jamie Hawkesworth for Man About Town SS 2014 1 'What Makes A Man A Man' by Jamie Hawkesworth for Man About Town SS 2014 1 'What Makes A Man A Man' by Jamie Hawkesworth for Man About Town SS 2014 1 'What Makes A Man A Man' by Jamie Hawkesworth for Man About Town SS 2014 1 'What Makes A Man A Man' by Jamie Hawkesworth for Man About Town SS 2014 1 'What Makes A Man A Man' by Jamie Hawkesworth for Man About Town SS 2014 1 'What Makes A Man A Man' by Jamie Hawkesworth for Man About Town SS 2014 1 'What Makes A Man A Man' by Jamie Hawkesworth for Man About Town SS 2014 1 'What Makes A Man A Man' by Jamie Hawkesworth for Man About Town SS 2014 1

Lily Donaldson by Sebastian Faena for US Harper's Bazaar May 2014 [Editorial]

Lily Donaldson  by Sebastian Faena for US Harper's Bazaar May 2014 1 Lily Donaldson  by Sebastian Faena for US Harper's Bazaar May 2014 1 Lily Donaldson  by Sebastian Faena for US Harper's Bazaar May 2014 1 Lily Donaldson  by Sebastian Faena for US Harper's Bazaar May 2014 1 Lily Donaldson  by Sebastian Faena for US Harper's Bazaar May 2014 1 Lily Donaldson  by Sebastian Faena for US Harper's Bazaar May 2014 1
The Best Of Swim
US Harper's Bazaar May 2014
Photographer: Sebastian Faena
Stylist: Joanna Hillman
Hair: Tamara McNaughton
Makeup: Frankie Boyd
Model: Lily Donaldson

'Into The Woods' Crista Cober by Will Davidson for Vogue Australia May 2014 [Editorial]

'Into The Woods' Crista Cober by Will Davidson for Vogue Australia May 2014

Into The Woods
Vogue Australia May 2014
Photographer: Will Davidson
Stylist: Christine Centenera
Hair: Jenny Kim
Makeup: Kellie Stratton
Model: Crista Cober

'Into The Woods' Crista Cober by Will Davidson for Vogue Australia May 2014 1 'Into The Woods' Crista Cober by Will Davidson for Vogue Australia May 2014 1 'Into The Woods' Crista Cober by Will Davidson for Vogue Australia May 2014 1 'Into The Woods' Crista Cober by Will Davidson for Vogue Australia May 2014 1 'Into The Woods' Crista Cober by Will Davidson for Vogue Australia May 2014 1 'Into The Woods' Crista Cober by Will Davidson for Vogue Australia May 2014 1 'Into The Woods' Crista Cober by Will Davidson for Vogue Australia May 2014 1 'Into The Woods' Crista Cober by Will Davidson for Vogue Australia May 2014 1 'Into The Woods' Crista Cober by Will Davidson for Vogue Australia May 2014 1 'Into The Woods' Crista Cober by Will Davidson for Vogue Australia May 2014 1

Kylie Minogue by Will Davidson for Vogue Australia May 2014 [Editorial]

Kylie Minogue by Will Davidson for Vogue Australia May 2014

The Divine Ms. M
Vogue Australia May 2014
Photographer: Will Davidson
Stylist: Ondine Azoulay
Hair: Kerry Warn
Make-Up: Georgina Graham
Celebrity: Kylie Minogue

Kylie Minogue by Will Davidson for Vogue Australia May 2014 1 Kylie Minogue by Will Davidson for Vogue Australia May 2014 1 Kylie Minogue by Will Davidson for Vogue Australia May 2014 1 Kylie Minogue by Will Davidson for Vogue Australia May 2014 1 Kylie Minogue by Will Davidson for Vogue Australia May 2014 1 Kylie Minogue by Will Davidson for Vogue Australia May 2014 1

'Orange Honey' Shu Pei by Jem Mitchell for Vogue China May 2014 [Editorial]

'Orange Honey' Shu Pei by Jem Mitchell for Vogue China May 2014

Orange Honey

Vogue China May 2014
Photographer: Jem Mitchell
Stylist: Ida Wang & Joanna Schlenzka
Hair: Neil Moodie
Makeup: Jeanine Lobell
Manicure: Alicia Torello
Model: Shu Pei

'Orange Honey' Shu Pei by Jem Mitchell for Vogue China May 2014 1 'Orange Honey' Shu Pei by Jem Mitchell for Vogue China May 2014 1 'Orange Honey' Shu Pei by Jem Mitchell for Vogue China May 2014 1 'Orange Honey' Shu Pei by Jem Mitchell for Vogue China May 2014 1 'Orange Honey' Shu Pei by Jem Mitchell for Vogue China May 2014 1 'Orange Honey' Shu Pei by Jem Mitchell for Vogue China May 2014 1 'Orange Honey' Shu Pei by Jem Mitchell for Vogue China May 2014 1

Daria Werbowy for Tiffany & Co. Atlas Jewelry Campaign

Daria Werbowy for Tiffany & Co. Atlas Jewelry Campaign 1 Daria Werbowy for Tiffany & Co. Atlas Jewelry Campaign 1

Keri Russell by Eric Guillemain for Malibu April May 2014 [Editorial]

Keri Russell by Eric Guillemain for Malibu April May 2014 1

Keri Russell by Eric Guillemain for Malibu April May 2014

Keri Russell by Eric Guillemain for Malibu April May 2014 2 Keri Russell by Eric Guillemain for Malibu April May 2014 2 Keri Russell by Eric Guillemain for Malibu April May 2014 2 Keri Russell by Eric Guillemain for Malibu April May 2014 2

Nadezhda

Malibu April May 2014 Keri Russell by Eric Guillemain

- Malibu April May 2014 Keri Russell by Eric Guillemain

Looks

Svea Kloosterhof

Svea Kloosterhof [...]

Covers

Marie Claire Greece May 2014 Ros Georgiou by George Katsanakis

- Marie Claire Greece May 2014 Ros Georgiou by George Katsanakis

- Vogue Ukraine May 2014 Lindsey Wixson by Jeff Bark
- Marie Claire Italy May 2014 Barbara Palvin
- Allure Russia May 2014 Alyssa Miller by Kenneth Willardt
- Marie Claire Russia May 2014 Daria Werbowy by Mathieu Cesar

Vogue Ukraine May 2014 Lindsey Wixson by Jeff Bark Vogue Ukraine May 2014 Lindsey Wixson by Jeff Bark Vogue Ukraine May 2014 Lindsey Wixson by Jeff Bark Vogue Ukraine May 2014 Lindsey Wixson by Jeff Bark

Rosamund Pike by Willy Vanderperre for W May 2014 [Editorial]

Rosamund Pike by Willy Vanderperre for W May 2014 1 Rosamund Pike by Willy Vanderperre for W May 2014 1 Rosamund Pike by Willy Vanderperre for W May 2014 1 Rosamund Pike by Willy Vanderperre for W May 2014 1
Crazy Beautiful
W May 2014
Photographer: Willy Vanderperre
Stylist: Olivier Rizzo
MakeUp: Jeanine Lobell
Hair: Jimmy Paul
Actress: Rosamund Pike