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MARKET SENSING WITH DANCE

"It's our partners that make the dance a good experience."
Differentiation
Anticipation
Nudge
Cost-Position
Echo Chamber

Walking into the dance studio was pretty exciting. Mirrors were everywhere. I kept looking side to side to catch my reflection from different angles. It was way cool to see the mirrors reflecting me into infinity. Jack noticed me looking and chuckled. A little embarrassed I stopped my glances and focused on the slim figure rapidly approaching. 

What little information Jack told me about Anna was just enough to prepare me for her welcome. This tiny woman practically tackled me at full speed with arms outstretched. Normally I think this would topple people, but this woman was so small I actually felt concern that she might have been hurt crashing into my body like that. My concern was unwarranted, however, since she immediately crashed into Jack next.

“Anna, you little treasure.” Jack said happily.

Anna stepped back to look us over and I suddenly felt like I was lining up for inspection. She nodded once to herself then said, “Jack, I want you to stand there out of the way and write down key points as we go along ok?”

Jack sighed dramatically then walked over to where a white board had been set up. He sat down in one of the metal folding chairs beside it. “You’re cruel Anna,” Jack said. “Would it have killed you to have gotten a chair with a cushion? And maybe something to drink?” He teased.

Anna ignored Jack and faced me. "Now” she said, “Jack has asked me to introduce the first of the Seven Pillars, Market Sensing. In Market Sensing, the five concepts that will help you nurture your competitive advantage can be neatly summarized by the acronym D.A.N.C.E. Any dance is best taught through practice cutie, so come on, take my hand."

And with that, Anna grabbed my hand and was moving me around the studio floor. As she stepped forward, I had to move backwards. As I led, she followed. During the twirl, Anna made sure I knew how to keep control. She showed me how to hold her as she dipped to the left, next to the right. I looked in the mirrors on the walls and thought, “Wow, I look pretty good. I look like I’ve been dancing for years.” She then stopped dancing so abruptly that I stepped on her foot and stumbled.

“Oh, sorry,” I said self-consciously. I suddenly remembered my sister’s wedding reception and wondered why I never looked so good dancing with any of the gorgeous women there. My stumbling at the end of this dance with Anna reminded me what the reception had been like. I concluded that the difference had to be my partner since I hadn’t changed.

Smiling at me with her giant brown eyes, she said, "Remember this. Market Sensing and dancing are team sports. It's our partners that make the dance a good experience."

Anna saw my expression and laughed. "From the look on your face, you were thinking the same thing. I understand this is new to you, but I dance to win Blake. I can't afford to lose too many competitions. Selecting the right dance partner is everything. I need a partner who makes me look good."

I wondered if it was a carefully guarded secret that woman could all read men’s minds. I only shrugged my shoulders and said, “I don’t think I have much chance making you look good, but I thought you were making me look pretty good.”

"Blake, you're getting ahead of yourself. Let me explain DANCE a little bit more. I promise I'll have more to say about making you look good in a minute. The five letters in DANCE stand for the elusive relationships between yourself and those you serve. Work and live by this little-known code and you're guaranteed breathtaking results."

I relaxed a little and smiled. “You're saying that anyone can increase their competitive advantage by working these five concepts?"

She nodded her head excitedly and said, "Of course there are other ways to increase competitive advantage, but these five concepts will do their part. DANCE truly captures the elusive relationship in competitive advantage.”

Anna explained to me why it’s necessary to nurture your competitive advantage in this time of remarkable upheaval and radical uncertainty. Then she walked over to the white board where Jack had already written out DANCE.

“DANCE lays out how to do this in five easy concepts.” Anna motioned her hand to the board. “If you've ever wondered how to increase your competitive advantage, here it is; in its most simple yet powerful form.”

“So what does the acronym stand for?” Blake asked.

“Now, now, don’t spoil my fun,” Anna teased. “We'll go through it one step at a time.”

DIFFERENTIATION

“Okay,” Anna began, “the D in DANCE stands for differentiation.”

I nodded and guessed, “By differentiation, you mean I should try to dance in a way that's different than everyone else right?"

"Well, sort of." She saw my expression and rolled her eyes shaking her head. “You're right in thinking that the objective is to be different, but just how we should be different is where most people trip on their own feet.”

Anna smiled suddenly and said, “I’ve got the perfect example. I was invited to a dance show where we dressed in sixties outfits that really showed just how wrong people can be. It seems back then people thought differentiation was all about themselves. We hadn't figured it out yet."Anna laughed and said, "Differentiation isn't about dressing like a peacock and hoping other people like the pretty colors."

"Wait, I don't get it.” I raised my palm to stop her. “Do you mean we shouldn't dress differently to achieve differentiation, or that we shouldn't dress to please others?"

"Blake, remember what we were talking about earlier? You told me it wasn’t as important to you how your dance partner looked dancing, as much as how well she helped you look. Do you remember?"

"So to differentiate myself,” I said, “I should become different in how much I help others, because the more I help them with whatever they're trying to do, the more valuable I become to them."

"I think he’s got it already." Anna said as she jumped up from where she had just sat down next to Jack. I could see excitement in her eyes, which fed my enthusiasm.

"Anna, that’s fantastic. I feel silly for not thinking of this before."

"I have to admit, you're a much better student than dancer. You make me look good as an instructor,” she said as she winked at me, “I might have to keep you around."

Now Jack was standing next to both of us, with a big grin on his face, "Let's talk a little business here." Anna sighed, and settled down like she was preparing for a lengthy lecture. I followed her lead, after all, she had made me look good before.

Jack missed her expression and continued, "Strong competitive advantage comes from two criteria. These criteria are superior cost-position, and differentiation. These two criteria are not independent. Your cost-position is how much cost or effort it takes to deliver your differentiation."

Anna added, "What he means is that some people spend a lot more energy or resources dancing than others do. For me, I have to practice, practice, and then practice some more. I've seen others, who where just born dancing."

I was surprised that she didn’t include herself in that select group. "I never would have guessed that Anna, it looks so easy for you." I stood and looked at the white board. "So Jack, what you’re saying is that Anna's cost-position is higher than the people who were just born dancing because of how much effort she must put into establishing her differentiation?"

Jack nodded once. "Yes, you could say that. We'll talk more about cost-position a little later. In fact, that's the C in D.A.N.C.E.”

“Hey!” Anna interjected, “No more hints!”

Jack laughed and continued. “Right now though, concentrate on the relationship between these two sources. Your differentiation is how much more you can help others compared to your competition. The more you differentiate yourself, the greater gain to your competitive advantage. However, the more effort you spend in differentiating yourself, the higher your cost-position climbs. A higher cost-position decreases your competitive advantage."

I struggled to get my head around what I was seeing on the board. "It’s like a fragile balance. Is it that cost-position and differentiation work against each other?"

"We have to be a little more careful in the way we say things." Jack drew on the board what looked to Blake like a see-saw. "It sounds like you're trying to describe the relationship between the cost-position and differentiation as a teeter-tooter. When one goes up, the other goes down. That's not correct.”

Jack indicated the drawing “Using this analogy however, the teeter-totter can represent the relationship between cost-position and competitive advantage. When your cost-position rises, your competitive advantage always goes down. When your cost-position drops, your competitive advantage always rises.”

I started to think I understood the point Jack was trying to make. I said, “So when my differentiation rises, my competitive advantage always rises. When differentiation drops, competitive advantage drops, the opposite is true with cost-position."

Anna jumped up and said, “Let me give you another example sweetie.” She took both of Jacks hands and then took him through an amazing dance routine of spins, dips, and other stuff I hadn’t ever seen before. After about a minute she said, "Just remember this, the easier I make hard things look, the more competitive the dance." She then stopped dancing and came over to where I was now standing. "We have to do hard things to differentiate our dance. But if it's easier for me to do than it is for my competition, then I can do more of them, and I gain the competitive advantage. I’ve seen dancers struggle with the simplest tango routines and they just get slaughtered by a dancer that does the same routine without a drop of sweat. We either differentiate by as much as we can afford or by as much as we need to". With a smile and a wink she said, "Hold back when you can stud, no reason to make people look too bad."

ANTICIPATION

Anna clapped her hands excitedly, "Now for the next part of DANCE. If you thought that dance was good, just watch this." Anna took Jack's hand and again walked him out to the middle of the dance floor. As she did so, she turned towards me and said "You're going to love this."

For several seconds, she and Jack stood there staring at each other, not moving or making a sound. I noticed how fiercely focused Anna now looked as she stood there. I thought I could see her going through her part of the routine in her mind. When her brow furrowed, I knew I was right.

As they stood there in the center of the dance studio, I suddenly felt inadequate as an audience for this dance. Such an amazing dance as I was about to see should have an enormous audience. I imagined the audience staring at the pair, ready to experience something that would amaze them all. I wondered if this dance would have dangerous stunts.

Although it was only the three of us in the room, I imagined the hush of the crowd.  After what seemed like a very long time to me, Anna finally smiled and said, "Blake, anticipation is the A in D.A.N.C.E.”

She and Jack started to come back to their chairs when I objected, “Wait? You aren’t going to dance?” Anna laughed and said, “Nope, now listen. Market sensing requires two forms of anticipation. First, the partners must anticipate each other moves, just like those close to you must be able to anticipate what you'll bring to them. The second form of anticipation is that as they get to know you better, the level of anticipation must grow. Each time you delight them, they look forward to the next time with greater and greater levels of anticipation.”

“As you do market sensing,” Jack added, “you can create that anticipation. You try to anticipate their needs, and build anticipation with each delivery.”

Anna nodded her head and said, “Remember, dancing and market sensing are both a team sport. With market sensing you’re seeking the understanding which will allow you to anticipate the market. At the same time, the market seeks guidance into what they can be excited about next. Dancers must be able to anticipate what the audience will want next year. Both you and those close to you must enable both forms of anticipation while market sensing. One provides insight into what is needed, the other provides insight into what is coming.”

She continued confidently, “You see now don’t you? It takes time to learn the right dances. If I don't anticipate next year’s trends, I'll find myself learning dances that'll be out of fashion before I can master them. It would be like doing the Charleston at a tango event. Anticipating the trends in dancing makes  the  difference  between  winning  the  championship,  and  getting  polite  applause.  Trend anticipation can only happen when both you and your market are participating together in market sensing activities.”

Jack smiled and said, “Can you imagine playing ping-pong without seeing both sides of the table? Imagine a mysterious veil at the net that prevents you from seeing what your opponent is doing and where the ball is coming from. All you can see is a ball instantly appearing on your side of the table, and you must try to react immediately or lose.”

“Then if by some miracle you successfully return the ball,” Jack chuckled and continued, “you must wait for it to instantly appear on your side and try your luck again. This is what market sensing is like without anticipation. We perform market sensing so that we can anticipate the needs of our customers. Much of our ability to anticipate customer needs comes from market analysis activities. Additional capability comes from competitive analysis activities, and yet further capability stems from activities to create and measure customer satisfaction.” Jack winked at Anna, “See? I get some right.”

“Yes you do handsome, and I’m breathless to hear more,” Anna teased. She was obviously having fun rattling Jack.

He stammered a little, “Today's futurists have anticipation down. A futurist observes trends in the world around them, interprets those trends, and is able to make accurate predictions based on the trends they've observed. Like the futurists, we must be able to observe trends within our markets, and then make accurate predictions about our market's needs. This ability to anticipate the market’s needs increases our competitive advantage. Just like it enables a person to win at ping pong.”

Anna sat down on the metal chair and stretched exaggeratingly before covering a wide yawn. Jack pretended not to notice and ploughed on through.

“Of course there is the other side of anticipation. Your market also needs to anticipate your capabilities. By conducting market sensing activities, you're able to spark your market's interest, and create an environment of anticipation. Further down the process, you'll nurture that environment. Finally, you'll be able to create and deliver meaningful service to a market ready to receive your services. It's imperative to create the type of anticipation that traps and creates hurdles for your competition. In doing so, you gain even greater competitive advantage.”

 “Yes, yes Jack,” Anna said, “Market sensing activities enable the two sides of anticipation Blake; your ability to anticipate future market needs, and the market's ability to anticipate your capabilities, which in turn, increase your competitive advantage through differentiation.

I nodded and said, “I bet this also impacts my cost-position by reducing the expensive ‘I think I'll try this or that’ approach. I mean come on, it’s always cheaper to know the right path the first time.” “Absolutely sweetie,” Anna smiled widely at Jack, “Can I keep him?”

NUDGE

Anna playfully punched my shoulder and continued, “The ‘N’ in DANCE stands for Nudge. They say you can't touch something without leaving a fingerprint. And so it is with market sensing activities. Every time we send out our feelers, we leave our finger prints behind. But if done right, market sensing can nudge a market segment in one direction or another, creating an enormous competitive advantage for those successful at it.”

“Wait, what exactly do you mean by feelers?” I interjected.

“A feeler is anything we use to perceive the world around us, beginning with our own five senses. They include all the methods we use in market sensing activities. Such as interviewing, surveys, and trend analysis. Even listening to the biased opinions of our mothers is a part of our feelers.”

Anna motioned with her hand. “A dancer should gather information concerning their audiences’ reaction to their performance, but they need to do much more than that.” Anna drew a small circle on the board. “The dancer must also be careful to not make a common mistake, which is focusing only on their current audience or their current performance.” She drew a much larger circle around the smaller circle. “A dancer should be trying to expand this small circle until it contains as much of the entire audience as possible. And if a dancer is leaving nudges correctly, they will be expanding their circle within the larger one.”

I nodded my head, “You mean when a dancer is gathering information from their audience they really should be fulfilling two purposes, those purposes being to gather information as well as showing their audience what else they are capable of?”

“Even more than that,” She corrected, “I also need to nudge other audiences towards my future capabilities so they get excited and want to come back to see them. So I need to identify potential future audiences as well. I need to identify what audiences I could capture with what capabilities while at the same time nudging audiences towards those capabilities.”

I thought of something else and smiled, “In a courtroom you can lead a witness one way or another just by the way you pose the question. A skilled lawyer can get a person to discover something that they had overlooked, or become suddenly angry and dissatisfied with something they were okay with a minute ago. Or they can make the jury come to a conclusion that they wouldn’t have normally come up with on their own. And all this is accomplished by using questions that were designed to lead either the jury or the witness towards what the lawyer wanted.

“Oh... I really like him.” Anna said excitedly, “He makes this so much more fun than you usually do.”

Jack rolled his eyes and said, “What you’re saying then, is when you nudge, with a slight nudge here, and a slight nudge there, you can move whole market segments. Either into your own customer network or out of your competitors’.”

Anna nodded, “Every time you sense the market, you want to ensure that you leave something behind, the nudge. In fact, the whole art of market sensing is a series of nudges, a nudge here, a nudge there, here a little, there a little, until the market is thinking your way. And most of the nudges are small by themselves. Thankfully, market sensing creates an excuse for you to contact the market and communicate with them. This becomes the environment for the little nudges.”

I suddenly thought of when I was dancing for the first time with my girlfriend in high school. We had been so awkward and nervous that we ended up just leaning side to side the entire time, never twirling or doing any special moves. In truth, neither of us was leading; we were both just dancing without purpose. I wondered what would happen in the courtroom if the lawyers weren’t trying to lead the witnesses or the jury.

“What would happen if lawyers just asked straight questions, and left it at that?” I asked aloud. “They wouldn’t really be needed anymore. The jury depends on them to nudge them so that they can form an opinion on the matter. Without the nudges, the jury is really uninformed and unsure of their decision.”

“Exactly,” Anna said. “I’m not talking about malicious manipulation here. Without those nudges, the jury would no longer depend on those lawyers, making the lawyers unnecessary. How many individuals today have found themselves unnecessary? Just as the lawyers need a jury, the jury needs the lawyers to lead them towards a decision. Well done Blake.”

Smiling I admitted, “Actually, I thought of it when I remembered a time when I danced with a girlfriend. I wasn’t really leading or anything, so we just wobbled back and forth the whole time.”

“Interesting,” Anna smiled mischievously. “What do you think would have happened if you had led too much?”

Confused I asked, “What do you mean? Like if I led her into so many moves that she passed out?”

“No,” she laughed, “I mean what do you think would happen if you were no longer nudging her to spin, or to step this way, but instead were grabbing her and pushing her this way and that?”

Jack joked, “He would probably end up with no dance partner at all, and single.”

“Right,” Anna explained. “Just as the dance partner would no longer put up with being pushed around, neither would the market segment we were trying to influence. We must nudge the market segment through purposeful leadership, not push them around all together like a tyrant. Otherwise we end up just as Blake would have ended up had he pushed around his dance partner, alone and without a partner to lead.”

“This makes good sense,” Jack nodded and continued. “I can tell you many times where I have seen a person or even friends pushed away because someone was trying to push the relationship towards something more than what was appropriate. They just kept pushing and pushing until finally they got dumped.” Jack chuckled and pointed to the circles Anna had drawn on the board. “By nudging rather than pushing, you can also increase your differentiation and increase your competitive advantage.”

I thought about it and imagined the impact that night might have had if I led the dance better. “I’ve also just realized that I wouldn’t be in a situation where I felt I needed to push my partner, because they would have been following my nudges for a long time, building upon that relationship of trust until following me had become comfortable.”

Anna laughed and said, “That is why I like to shop at Nordstrom and why Jack likes to drive only Ford vehicles. We are comfortable following their nudges and we don’t feel like they are pushing us towards something we don’t want.” She paused then amended, “Although, the people that try to spray me with perfume at Nordstrom can get pretty annoying.”

COST-POSITION

“All right, Anna.” I took my seat and asked, “We’re up to the “C” in DANCE. This is what Jack said was cost-positioning right?”

Anna wrote on the board as she spoke. “Yes, the ‘C’ stands for cost-position.”  She capped the marker and added, “And your cost-position is the amount of effort it takes you to deliver value to others compared to the efforts of your competitors."

“Of course, cost isn’t just effort,” Jack added as he cleaned his glasses. “It’s the effort, time, and the overall financial contribution. It’s everything you put into your differentiation and the sacrifices you make for it. For example, the cost of going to college is much more than just the financial expense, just think of everything else you put into going to college. That decision impacts every aspect of your life."

Anna asked Blake, “What did you get your degree in?”

“Computer Science,” I replied. “And it took me almost six years because I was working full-time to pay for it.”

Anna nodded, “Yes, it sounds like you definitely went through a lot to get your degree. Now let me ask you something, what would you say if someone was able to acquire the same knowledge you did without having to attend college? What if this person was able to learn it from just reading self-taught books and practicing it on their computer, say for 3 years?”

I blinked. “I’d say this person would make me feel very small, but I see your point. If he was able to achieve the same thing I achieved with such a huge difference in effort and expense, their cost-position would be much lower than mine. They could go to school for an additional three years and learn a lot more, or they could enter the work force three years sooner and have a lot more experience. I'd hate to compete against them while looking for a job”

“Right, and so would I," Anna confirmed.

Jack looked at me and said, “When dealing with market sensing it's imperative that we're able to estimate our own cost-position relative to our competitors’.”

I tried to think of how I could possibly estimate my competitor’s cost-position. “It makes sense that I should pay attention to my cost-position when thinking about competitive advantage and market sensing,” I began, “But I’m coming up blank on how to do that.”

Anna rearranged her skirt on the chair then replied, “Remember that for now you are just getting the general concept of DANCE. Before you really try to use DANCE, you should really come to one of my DANCE classes or help plan a pmNERD™ event. There you will get some real practice on how to do the various activities of market sensing.”

“But for now,” Jack agreed, “Just remember that both your competitor’s cost-position and your own is an estimate of the total effort made to deliver value to the market.”

Anna nodded. “Also, some people use profit as a measure of cost-position, but that’s not cost-position. Profit is the difference between how much you spend on differentiation, and the rewards you get in return. Profit has as much to do with perceived value and gathered rewards than it does with expenses. Also, profit is an individual measurement, whereas the cost-position is a ranking relative to others.”

“So really,” I ventured carefully, “In market sensing, it's important that I gather enough information about me and my competitors to estimate both of our expenses relative to each other. So I don’t have to know the actual value of either, I just have to know who is higher or lower right?”

Anna stood up and said, “That’s the secret, you know how much effort it takes to waltz because you’ve done it before.” She slowly danced by herself as she said, “If a competitor is waltzing, I have a pretty good idea how much energy they’re spending. I couldn’t tell you the amount of calories they’re burning, but I can tell when they're straining more than I. The signs are clear if you've been there.” She suddenly changed her dance. “In this case, I’d say my cost-position was high relative to others I've seen. I need more practice before I can say I'm efficiently executing this samba.  Others who know the dance well, would discern that I'm straining.”

Jack spoke excitedly, “The game is all about lowering your cost-position. How efficiently can you deliver value to the marketplace? Can you deliver that value less expensively than your competitors? If so, then you stay in the game. If not, well, then you’re the kid at the arcade who’s all out of quarters.”

Feeling comfortable with the concept I added, “I get it. Focusing on your cost-position is about maximizing the effectiveness of each step in your process. I should focus on delivering what I'm capable of delivering, while expanding my capabilities for later. In dance, you showed me that I want to look at the dance as a whole, but the whole impression of the dance is made up of effectively and efficiently  executed independent steps.”

Anna beamed as she said, “Yes. And notice, there is a distinct difference between effectively and efficiently. If a dance was efficiently executed, it would take the least amount of effort, but wouldn't necessarily communicate what the dancer wanted to communicate as a whole. Efficiently is about your cost-position. To communicate what I want, and deliver high amounts of perceived value, each step must be effectively executed, this is differentiation. It's a balance between differentiation and cost-position. Now you know another way of looking at the balance between effective and efficient activities."

 “I think you’ve got this concept Blake,” Anna said as she looked at her watch. “And I think you’re ready to practice the last step of the DANCE.”

ECHO CHAMBER

“The last step of DANCE is the Echo Chamber.” Anna indicated the large dancing hall with her hand. “This place has a slight echo. Anytime I say anything, I will hear it fed back to me. The same is true with any messages I send out to the market. If I tell my customers something, eventually they are going to feed it back to me.” Anna held up a finger to her lips and whispered, "Listen".

When Jack and I settled down, she said in a broadcasting voice, "Anna is Great!" We all could hear the echo in the dance studio. "If we listen to echoes, we can talk ourselves into believing whatever we want."

Jack's eyes widened with excitement when he said, “Blake, what do you think about milk?”

I felt a little confused at the question, but answered with a smile, “Tastes great. Does my body good?”

Jack nodded as if he expected this response. “A long time ago the market was sold the idea that ‘milk does a body good’. The origination of that message isn’t important, but whoever first sent that message would now be told by millions of people the same thing back. It doesn't make it any more or less true than when they first sent it. This is essentially the echo chamber.”

I now grasped the purpose of the question. “So the echo chamber concept is that the messages I send will eventually be fed back to me by the market I targeted. Makes sense, but wasn’t that the point of the message?”

Anna smiled and answered, “Yes it was, but you must be careful not to call things facts that are only the echoes of a message sent by yourself or your competitors. In the milk example, step outside the echo chamber to hear how others see milk. For example some places in Europe see milk as unhealthy and just use it for baking, whereas in America, most homes have a milk container in the fridge for drinking.”

Jack drew a large circle and then a much smaller one inside it. “This larger circle represents the entire market and the smaller circle represents the market segment affected by your marketing. If you don’t step outside the smaller circle, you are not going to get as much new information as you need to for market sensing. You are going to be fed the same messages you nudged so purposefully a little while before. If you don’t step out of this echo chamber occasionally, if you don’t also listen to potential customers outside your current ones, you’re limiting your market perception and source of new information used in the productization process.”

Anna interjected, “By limiting your view of the market, you miss out on opportunities for greater  differentiation. If you are not hearing a wider perspective of what the market needs as a whole, you will not be trying to provide it with solutions. You can’t address a problem you don’t perceive. Men like to point this out when their significant others are angry with them about something."

 “So by remaining in the echo chamber,” I suggested, “I have limited my feelers to just the areas that my nudges have affected, rather than the larger areas outside of my influence.”

“Right, and there is even more to it.” Anna pointed to the area outside the smaller circle contained in the larger one. “This area represents all potential new customers. They haven’t been affected by your nudges yet, so you need to start nudging them more successfully. When you start getting your nudges fed back to you in an echo chamber, this is an indicator that your nudge was successful in that area of the market.”

Anna dragged her finger into the smaller circle. “Also, if you find an area within the market you have been targeting that is not feeding your message back to you, then you know your nudge wasn’t successful. Which means you need to gather better information so that you can send a new message with a new nudge that will be more successful.”

Jack added, “But you also need to be cautious when you are getting messages fed back to you. You need to remember or figure out where they are coming from. If you're being fed a competitor’s nudge, you need to address that. If you are being fed your own message back, you need to react appropriately. The key is to step outside the echo chamber and listen. If you speak at one end of the tube, don’t be surprised when you hear your voice at the other end. In market sensing activities, know when you're verifying your nudges, and when you're listening for new ideas. For verification, speak in one end of the tube and listen to the other end. Then for new insight listen away from the tube.”

Anna sat back down and leaned forward. “Use nudges as a tool to create anticipation and guidance, but when receiving feedback, be aware that you can’t help but hear echoes when talking to customers.  Step outside the closed community as often as possible to avoid the echo chamber.”

“If before performing I communicate to my audience that the dance will be sexy and spirited, I need to realize that when I hear them saying it back to me that this message came from me. If I remember to step outside the echo chamber, and listen to the feedback of those that didn’t receive my pre-performance message, I may hear that the performance was great and fast paced, challenging and inspirational. This tells me what the market thinks is good, not just what I told them was great. In my next dance, I may be innovative and trade a little sexiness and speed for technical delivery. Market sensing is all about correctly perceiving what the market values. The echo chamber can cloud our perception if we're not careful.”

“And if she only listened to the echo chamber, soon every dance would be illustrating only sexiness and spirit to the point of harming her overall performance.” Jack contributed.

I nodded and said, “Plus you would never have modified your performance, and you would lose your competitive advantage to those with original ideas that listened to the real market and not only their nudges through the echo chamber.”

Anna indicated the white board as she said, “So that sums up the five concepts and steps of DANCE. I really hope you will come to my class sometime, so we can apply these concepts and practice the steps.

And when you do, "She added with a wink and a smile, “remember that a good student makes the instructor look good.”

Jack and I both stood up and thanked Anna for her help and walked outside to the parking lot. As we walked to our cars I asked, “Couldn’t my coworkers also be a type of echo chamber?”

“Absolutely,” He replied. We walked silently for a while then Jack started to smile, “She really is pretty incredible isn’t she?”

I thought about all that I had just learned, about all the implications and impacts this information could have on how I performed market sensing. “Yes, it really is incredible.”

 

 

 

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