Flipping adversity into advantage: CMO Book Club insights from Laura Huang


Laura Huang researched and wrote Edge: Turning Adversity into Advantage months ago, well before the current pandemic.  Her lessons, however, are particularly valuable in this moment.

Dealing with imposter syndrome? Addressing flaws and adversity head-on? Flipping stereotypes in our favor? If you sometimes feel you’re hitting the same wall over and over, you’re not alone.  Not now, not before.

In a spirited CMO Book Club discussion yesterday, Laura shared a variety of insights, lessons and best practices relevant to marketing leaders, entrepreneurs, and anybody willing to think and work to make themselves better.

Among the highlights:

  • “Keep working hard” is good advice but not sufficient: You must first understand your strengths and opportunities for growth, enrich improvement areas, guide your focus and other’s perceptions of you, then the hard work starts to pay off.
  • Within our inefficiencies are hidden superpowers: It’s worth taking the time to identify where we may struggle, where we may come up short, and understand both how we can improve those areas as well as how we can leverage them as an advantage externally.
  • “Be yourself” is actually bad advice: Who you are in front of different people (your spouse, your boss, your buddies) might be different and that might be OK.  What’s most important is to know who you are, know your abilities, and leverage the skills in your toolbox in different situations to be more effective.
  • We learn more from people telling us “no” vs people who say “yes”: Laura has an exercise for her Harvard Business School students where she sends them out in the field to intentionally get 10 people to say not to them – for an idea, a proposition, something.  She then encourages them to dissect (or even directly ask) what was behind the no answer, as a means of learning, improving, and adjusting the targets, style, etc to ultimately get more of the right “yes” answers from the right people.
  • Stay curious: Continue to ask questions of yourself and others. Show others that you are interested and curious about them, about their motivations.  This helps you learn and helps others see you’re interested in them too.
  • Don’t be bitter, be better: Life is full of challenges and obstacles.  It’s easy to be bitter and jaded about what’s happening around us, especially now.  But adversity is a fact of life.  How can you leverage those experiences, that scar tissue, to make yourself better?

You are welcome to check out the full on-demand recording of our discussion with Laura here, plus please join us for the next CMO Book Club author Q&A on June 10th when Mathew Sweezey will join us to discuss his new book The Context Marketing Revolution.  Special thanks to PFL for partnering with us on this series.