Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Understanding the system part 1: follow the money

Why does capitalism works so well? Because it is based on self preservation and fulfilling self interest. I will do as I usually do and use my sledgehammer which seems to be the only tool I know how to use properly.

I will start with a neutral example. If you go and consult a massage therapist to help you with a pain in your lower back, what do you think would be in his best interest? Businesswise, a returning customer brings you a lot more money than having to find new costumers all the time. Of course, the treatment has somehow to seem effective, or else you will find someone else to heal you. If the therapist wants to make as much money as possible, he should then offer the best  temporary release and help you to rationalize why you need to come back later for another treatment.

Of course, this the coldest hypothetical situation, but the truth remains, this is a system relying on good faith. I like to think that most people would consciously rather step on their self interest for the greater good, but what is going on unconsciously, that we will never know.

This is in fact a typical scenario in the martial arts world. The master will only show his secrets to his most advanced students to keep them as long as possible. What do you think happens when a student is as good as the master? Not only will he stop taking classes with his former master, but he might also become a new competitor in the same area.

Is the system very different in swing dancing? The short answer is no!  Why do people keep on doing swing dancing? Because it satisfies certain needs. A short list would look like this:

  • Feeling like part of a group and position yourself within that group.
  • Having a good time
  • Easier to socialize and meet people.
  • Impression of exercising.
  • Getting better at something or being on the impression of.
I don’t think most locals classes, weekend workshops or even private classes are design to help people reaching the top, but rather to give them the impression they are on the right track. Don’t get me wrong, those settings are great from what I observed for pre-advanced dancers. Also, I believed everybody is well intended and nobody really has an evil agenda of any sort.

Follow the money! It is in everybody’s interest, both instructors and promoters, to keep students at that level where they fulfill all their needs and they have the impression the product/service they’re buying is what will help them getting better. There are two ways to drop retention: people who quit and people who get so good they don’t need the products/services anymore. The level system also contribute to that illusion. Of course one feels like he progressed since last year, for he used to be in Intermediate and he is now in Intermediate/Advance.

We can easily notice how few new superstars, full time instructors, there are in the swing dancing world in the past 5 years or so even with that many more very good dancers around. Beside few dancers who got their game above everybody else, most of them are now obviously interchangeable. Do the new guys really have a shot in the current settings, maybe if they play their cards right, but they will most likely try really hard to make a name for themselves until they fail and quit. The system however will keep making them believe that all they need is another year of competing, just another year…