Thought Leadership

A movement

By Colin Walls

Before and during the holiday season, I was lucky enough to attend a number of live musical events: two “a cappella” groups [one local and light-hearted in a village hall; the other from the Ukraine and more serious in a more formal venue], a Joni Mitchell tribute performer and a traditional pantomime. These were all very different kinds of entertainment. The only obvious connection between these events was that they were live musical performances and that is enough to get me to attend.

But I noticed another common factor, which relates to the audience and from which we can learn some lessons in promoting and selling an idea, technology or product …

As these musical performances were quite different, the audiences that they attracted were quite diverse and it would be hard to see any clear patterns. However, the behavior of the audiences had some very clear similarities. This became very apparent at the end of each song, when applause was anticipated. But when does that applause start? And who is responsible for the first clap?

This is the common factor that I observed. On all these occasions, there was a tangible pause between the ending of the song and the applause starting. This comes about because many performers do not clearly signal that they have finished – some seem to take pleasure in fooling the audience with sudden finishes or a long pause that sounds like a song is done. The result is that the applause occurs in three phases:

  1. some brave soul decides to take the lead and puts their hands together
  2. two or three others pick up on this almost immediately
  3. everyone else joins in

I find this behavior interesting and started wondering whether the observation could be applied is a useful way. Then I remembered a talk I had seen about starting a movement. There is a short video here. [If you are not familiar with TED, but have an inquiring mind, you about to discover a treasure trove.] This shows that starting a trivial “movement” follows a similar sequence of phases.

The lesson we can learn from this relates, as I said, to promoting and selling an idea, technology or product. You need to champion it; then you need to nurture your first customers/supporters; the rest will follow.

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at