The Royal Spud

Famine was not uncommon in medieval days. The Spanish grew potatoes for cattle. The potato was misshapen and ugly and didn’t have much taste, so Europeans never considered it as a food product for humans. And, they refused to consider Idaho’s pride.

Frederick the Great of Prussia saw a need and potential: food that would stave off hunger and a product to keep down the price of bread. When the population replied that even dogs wouldn’t eat potatoes, and they weren’t going to, Frederick issued an edict in 1774: “Grow and eat potatoes.” Marie Antoinette wore potato flowers, but the marketing was not working. The world view of the general population refused to accept russets as a resource.

Frederick had an epiphany. He began to think empathetically. He chose to view the potato through the world view of his citizens. He instructed his gardeners to plant a field of royal spuds and surround that field with heavily armed guards to protect the royal veggie from thieves—but not too well. The peasants got the idea that anything the king guarded that heavily must be of value. The peasants began to swipe a few potatoes so they could plant them for themselves.

“Economists have estimated that the introduction of the potato was responsible for a quarter of the growth in Old World population between 1700 and 1900.” (Difference, Bernadette Jiwa, ©2014

Ms. Jiwa says it was only when Frederick saw through eyes of empathy that he was able to sell the potato which affected history. A couple of direct quotes from Jiwa from a business view:

“…figuring out what people want and finding ways to delight one person at a time, one person who is thrilled to talk about you to her friends…” makes your product attractive. Empathy—seeing and feeling from the perspective of the person you seek to serve.

Empathy is one of the four primary components of Emotional Intelligence. Empathy is also a primary theme in the New Testament.

“…marketing is…a transfer of emotion. It’s about changing how people feel and in turn, helping them fall in love with something, or maybe just a little bit more in love with themselves.” (Page 13-Difference.)

That is why one statement is key to healthy family relationships: “Help me understand what you are thinking about this and what you are feeling.”

©2017 D. Dean Benton

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