MOVEMENT MAKING PRINCIPLES AS IT APPLIES TO BH, BTS AND ARMY

Main Reference: https://hbr.org/2017/06/changing-company-culture-requires-a-movement-not-a-mandate

[Quoted items are excerpts from the main reference article]

MOVEMENT STARTS WITH EMOTION

“We often think of movements as starting with a call to action. But movement research suggests that they actually start with emotion — a diffuse dissatisfaction with the status quo and a broad sense that the current institutions and power structures of the society will not address the problem. This brewing discontent turns into a movement when a voice arises that provides a positive vision and a path forward that’s within the power of the crowd.”

BangPD formed BH and incidentally BTS out of his brewing “anger” on the state of the music industry in Korea. Judging from the what the Korean name of BTS stand for we can assumed that their identity was born out of a discontent in not having enough music that tackle relevant youth issues.

MOVEMENTS STARTS SMALL 

“They begin with a group of passionate enthusiasts who deliver a few modest wins. While these wins are small, they’re powerful in demonstrating efficacy to nonparticipants, and they help the movement gain steam.  The movement really gathers force and scale once this group successfully co-opts existing networks and influencers. Eventually, in successful movements, leaders leverage their momentum and influence to institutionalize the change in the formal power structures and rules of society.”

Hailing from a relatively unknown, small agency BTS started of with a small but passionate fanbase. Despite the size, they were loud and proud of every win achieved at the beginnings of the band. This fueled curiosity and helped bring in new fans. The fans were also wise when they co-opted a key influencer to further launch BTS – The Billboard Music Awards. Though BTS was rising in popularity and following prior to the BBMAs, it served as an opportunity that opened more doors for them. The fans were able to leverage this to increase their momentum. 


PRACTICES FOR LEADING CULTURAL MOVEMENTS AND HOW IT APPLIES TO BTS AND ARMY

FRAME THE ISSUE

This refer to the question of “why”. Identifying purpose. We all know how BTS recently struggled with the question of why they are doing what they are doing. This is in the middle of their rising success. A question that almost made them consider disbanding. But they collectively discovered or rediscovered their WHY and have articulated it to us in  different occasion and in different forms. RM’s iconic “use us” is an epitome of this discovery journey.  As an ARMY we have also come across the question of WHY we are here. Why are we supporting them? Though we have varied reasons, this sensitivity to our personal WHY is what we share together. We have different WHYs, but we all are able to channel this WHY to achieving heights for the band.

DEMONSTRATE QUICK WINS

“Movement makers are very good at recognizing the power of celebrating small wins.”

As a fandom we celebrate everything. Our ability to trend different things is an example of the value we put in celebrating BTS’ accomplishment and even our own.

CREATE SAFE HAVENS

“Movement makers are experts at creating or identifying spaces within which movement members can craft strategy and discuss tactics. “

SNS has been this place for us. Many of our operations started via DM/PM w/c then moved out into other platforms as we execute a roster of different initiatives. We find like minded people, create a venue for us to collaborate and bring together key objectives.

EMBRACE SYMBOLS

“Movement makers are experts at constructing and deploying symbols and costumes that simultaneously create a feeling of solidarity and demarcate who they are and what they stand for to the outside world. Symbols and costumes of solidarity help define the boundary between “us” and “them” for movements. “

The BTS and ARMY logo is a perfect example of a unifying symbol. The quotes “I purple you”, the color purple, the ARMY bomb, and so many more things that represent us is an example of how we are able to leverage symbolism, artifacts to strengthen our relationship with BTS and with each other.

RECOGNIZE THE VALUE OF FRICTION

“In a movements-based approach to change, a moderate amount of friction is positive. A complete absence of friction probably means that little is actually changing.”  

Our rationale, moderate friction with BH and with each other within the fandom is a litmus test that we are not stagnant, that we are changing, growing and that we have yet to succumb to group think. 

Whenever I step out of being a fan and look at BTS and ARMY with a different lens, I get to see frameworks that operate in society manifested in our own microcosm. It allows me to understand further not the WHY we work so well as a fandom but the HOW.

ARMY CHARTED THE ENTIRE BTS DISCOGRAPHY ON ITUNES. [This is not a drill!]

Nov 10-11 was legendary for the BTS ARMY. Within the span of 24+ hours the BTS ARMY was able to chart all of BTS’ discography on iTunes US. An impressive feat! But what is even more remarkable is that Map of the Soul Persona achieved 40+ number 1s across the globe. In fact, even algorithm of iTunes could not make sense of this behavior that it reintroduced MOTS under the New Releases category.


Numbers aside there are key points I want to highlight:[1] Turn every negative into a positive[2] The force of pull vs. push[3] The antithesis to the norm – In the age of streaming, singles and bundles, ARMY in one swoop have altered this entire universe.

Turn every negative into a positive

The questionable results coming from the People’s Choice Award was the key trigger for this initiative. Instead of complaining or wallowing in frustration and disappointment over the obvious disparity in results, the BTS ARMY channeled these negative emotions into something beneficial to BTS and to the fandom. 

The collective sales will add up to the total sales of BTS by end of the year which the fandom hopes to help cement BTS’ place in the IFPI as well as add to the numbers needed for RIIA. The charting will also allow the uninitiated to “accidentally” discover BTS while browsing through iTunes. In fact, many new ARMYs have discovered some of the older albums of BTS through this initiative as well.

The activity was beneficial to the fandom as it allowed us to rally behind a cause that is more constructive. A setback like PCA would have generated negative conversations that will eat up on the members of the ARMY. But we were able to use the experience to further develop camaraderie amongst the fans. It was also a good rehearsal for the upcoming comeback of BTS. New ARMYs have learned how to buy from iTunes and experience first hand the excitement that permeates the fandom during comeback season. 

Turning a negative experience into a tool to generating constructive output meant taking control of the situation – we did not want to be the victim. Instead we took control of the way we felt, and collectively agreed to take responsibility for what should happen next. We shifted the narrative.

The force of pull vs. push  

Pull in this context refers to our individual commitment to do what needs to be done. Push on one hand refers to top down mandate or clear push from people in authority or influence.

The recent days we have seen how labels have gamed the system through less than favorable means to boost visibility of their acts. It is a known practice that labels with agenda will pull strings, use money to affect either consumer behavior or perceptions.

But this single act of the ARMY illustrated how despite no organized plan, no clear authority figure, no mandate, every single ARMY were pulling from within themselves. Pulling from their own commitment to BTS and for what BTS stands for. And we were pulling all at the same time towards one direction but pulling from different sides.

Imagine a Growth Circle. As we pull at the same time across different sides, the growth circle expands. This is the perfect metaphor for what we have accomplished.  

The antithesis to the norm

In the age of streaming, singles and bundles, ARMY in one swoop have altered this entire universe. 

The key premise is that people don’t buy music anymore, they stream. But ARMYs buy. Streaming remains an area that we are working on but contrary to norm, we buy. 

The key premise is that this is a singles era. Nobody listens to full albums anymore. Not the ARMY. We understand and appreciate the beauty of narratives told through the songs within an album. And so we buy, not just singles but full albums.

The key premise is that because people don’t buy music anymore, to make them buy you need to bundle the music with anything and everything. Not the ARMY. With or without bundles we buy. We buy the music. We buy the merchandise and tickets and everything else BTS releases independent of the music. In fact there seems to be a collective disdain for bundles in the ARMY because it dilutes the quality of the music. 

Another anomalous behavior of the ARMY is buying things that is given for free. BTS releases music for free through platforms like Soundcloud. They also release the same free materials on paid platforms. We still buy them. In fact we beg them to sell us music they have released for free. Ddaeng for example. 


I wrote this while waiting for my meeting to start. If I had more time, I would love to further dissect what the entire experience we recently had mean in the context of Social Movements. It would be a great to reflect on our experience as a fandom and how it applies to us as individuals in the real world.

What are some of your key take away from our recent experience? Would love to hear from you.

“The promotional masterplan could serve as a blueprint for monetizing fandom” [insert green emoticon here..you know what I mean]

An article recently positioned the marketing ploys of the companies behind another Kpop act that desperately tried to push itself to the US market powered by the machinery of the labels that partnered to bring them on shore as:

  • stunning achievement
  • pulled out all winning marketing stops
  • hyper-efficient
  • incredibly savvy
  • the “scheming” alone shows remarkable dedication

Event went to the length of saying that: 
 “The promotional masterplan could serve as a blueprint for monetizing fandom”
I urge you not to look for the article anymore or give it the luxury of your time. But I do want to use it as a jumping board to spotlight how different my experience was with BTS and the way they built their empire.
INTENTIONALITY

  • Clearly the intent of their marketing effort was to monetize the fandom rather than connect with them. All efforts by the label were towards pushing the fandom to buy, download, share. The labels even crafted questionable means to exponentially multiply the output of a single purchase. 
  • In contrast BTS broke through the market overtime by building a fanbase that had genuine appreciation for their craft. They were bubbling into a niche market even before they found themselves on the Billboard awards. They had US chart records worthy of news even before they “broke out” but did not get as much limelight because of ..well that’s another topic for another day, but also threads around the power of media and those that have a hand on them.

THE WHY

  • The monetary success achieved by BTS  was a byproduct. It was not the core intent. But as a famous quote from one of my favorite movie 3 Idiots state “Pursue excellence and success will chase you”, BTS pursued excellence and purpose in their craft. Everything else came organically. 
  •  After an overhaul and coming out with the HYYH series, they started to really look into themselves and why they were doing music. The answer – they want to talk about something relevant to them, and they want to share it with their ARMY.
  • This desire to use the platform they have to really talk about things that matter to them gave birth to the connection they have with us. The fandom is filled with stories of fans testifying on how much they felt the songs were about them or talking to them. Overtime BTS’ continuous questioning of their WHY led them to the famous RM phrase “Use me”. They want to be a vessel of comfort for those who need it. 
  • This deep connection that fans felt needed an outlet. The outlet just happened to be our willingness to invest in anything and everything they do. Our investment came in the form of money, time, effort. 
  • The real Avengers were put together for a mission – to save the world. Which begs to question, why was this group put together? From where I stand it is definitely not to form deep connection with fans because connection is built overtime and through experiencing the actual craft you put out into the world. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to deduce that the group was formed to break into a very profitable market. Grabbing the opportunity that BTS has paved the way for.

THE WHO

  • The article left a very sour taste on my mouth when it semi ended with  “The promotional masterplan could serve as a blueprint for monetizing fandom”. When you read closely it sees people as cash cow not people with intellect and with the ability to decide on their own. 
  • A huge contrast to who ARMY is to BTS. The enormous amount of FREE CONTENT we have received from BTS from Day 1 is a testament to their willingness to exert time and effort for work that we get for FREE and that we literally beg them to allow us to pay for. Our willingness to pay PREMIUM for everything is a byproduct of a CONNECTION formed because COLLECTIVELY we all know that they treat us as PEOPLE. Real people. 
  • In a concert, despite being amongst thousands when they perform you feel it is intended not just for everyone in the room but for you. Why do you have this feeling? Because they have allowed us to SEE them. Their strength and vulnerabilities through the platforms they have used to genuinely connect with us.

MARKETING APPROACH: LABEL DRIVEN vs. FANDOM DRIVEN

  • From a technical standpoint, the marketing approach they used was quite archaic. Which is the other reason why the article left a less than favorable reaction from me. Yes there were tons of bells and whistles but at the core it is a remnant of very old practice of looking at the consumers as passive participants.
  • Current consumer trends have shown that our generation has given birth to what we call “The Super Customer”. Because of technology we can find anything we need within a few second, for instance recommendation and guidance. The Super Customer has access to enormous amount of information as a result they have their voice and will speak up. So designing a “blueprint” is really old school. What works nowadays are what we call sprints, where an idea is tested live in a real market. 
  • These days a label or company pushed marketing approach decays easily, cannot be replicated and does not scale [because it is terribly expensive] . Contrary to that is what ARMY is good at – FANDOM driven marketing. A fandom driven marketing has the elements of human centered marketing. It is driven by PURPOSE. Fueled by HUMAN CONNECTION. Powered by EFFORTS from within the members of the fandom. Ideas are formed quickly, tested immediately in the real environment, iterated immediately to adapt to constraints and changes. In fact, the label at the center of this marketing approach is the unpredictable variable because they swing between being an enabler or a constraint. We’ve seen BH be both at different occasion.

MARKETING INTEGRITY

  • “All sales count for BB” is what was on their SNS account. The writer called it “fair practice”. When called out, all of a sudden Nielsen and BB protocols for filtering were mentioned.
  • Since when is lying on your official Social media account considered “fair practice”. Another proof of how old school and outdated their marketing stunts were. They have completely forgotten about the concept of “informed skepticism”. Our current generation of consumers can easily publicly deconstruct product and offering, so marketing integrity is no longer a desirable virtue it is a driver of choice. There is increasing survey results that show that consumers prefer to buy from companies with ethical standards and integrity

I told myself I was not going to write anything when I saw that article. I had my coffee, watched Run BTS and other BTS stuff, read a few lines in a book. But I really could not help myself. I wanted to not write about it as I hoped to keep a positive timeline and just take a backseat and support the recent releases CNS and MIR. But a burning desire compelled me to just let it all out.  I guess because the article touched on business angles that I have opinion on, I really couldn’t just keep it in. So apologies for my family ARMY who were hoping to sweep this article under the rug. Just indulge me as I am also rarely on the bird app and on this blog these days due to workload.  
On a lighter note: Please continue to support all BTS releases. It is the Grammy Review period. We need to find ways to keep our boys within the radar of the grammy members. 

BTS x HUMAN CENTERED MARKETING

With the advent of bloated sales records as a result of activities/offers that have very little to do with the music or the artistry, it is imperative to look at how BTS was able to achieve its record breaking chart performance with organic and in the real essence of the word – PURE sales.


This musing led me to the realization that BTS and BH whether by design or intuition applied CxHx – Customer Centered Human Centered approach in building their relationship with us as consumers.
A human centered approach means that BTS placed empathy and impact at the center of their engagement with us. We are not just passive consumers whose only function is to move sales. To BTS, before consumers we are fundamentally humans first. 


This explains why they are in constant pursuit of trying to understand us more. They want to walk our shoes, listen to us and our stories and consequently share their own. They want to leave an impact in our lives and they want us to grow together. 
Human-centered marketing is gaining traction as an alternative approach to more traditional customer centered approach. HCM is characterized by the following stages:

  • Walking in customer’s shoes
  • Listening with empathy
  • Making a human impact
  • Growing together with your audience

What do you think? What are examples of your personal experience that align with these 4 stages?

Reference: https://www.humanisation.com/complete-guide-to-human-centered-marketing

Photo credit to owner: https://www.b2bleadblog.com/humanized-marketing-automation-build-relationships/

THE VOTING CONUNDRUM

I finally have time to write my thought re: recent Twitter crackdown on our voting fanbases.

Disclaimer: This is an opinion thread not a factual piece. Please take my insights with a grain of salt.


I’ll start off with this: In March 2018 Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey announced an initiative to promote healthy conversations on the platform, May 2018 they launched major changes in the algorithms to police “suspicious” behavior.

My take: What is happening to our fanbases and to some of our other big accounts leading up to this period is possibly a collateral damage of this move.


Del Harvey, Twitter’s VP for Trust and Safety said in 2018 that it was only recently that they were able to dedicate resources and TECHNICAL CAPABILITIES to target suspicious behavior. This means that they have invested in designing AI algorithms that track & flag a roster of bot like behavior & other related malicious behavior. When they launched this initiative they started of with increasing the rate of suspensions of fake accounts [suspending at a rate of 1M/day], this doubled in October 2018.
Some of the key bot-like behaviors they flag that I think unintentionally characterize organic behaviors of our fanbase accounts are  as follows:

  • Tweeting a hundred times a day
  • Gaining hundreds/thousands of followers in just a few days
  • Tweeting around the clock
  • Spam like tweets [tweets that look the same, repeating tweets]
  • Tweet to a larger number of accounts they don’t follow
  • How often they are blocked/muted by people they interact with or follow them
  • Multiple accounts were created from a single IP address
  • Following other accounts tagged as spam or bot 

Research behavior Samuel Wooley from Digital Intelligence Lab said “When you have an account tweeting over a thousand of times a day, there’s no question it’s a bot”. In fact, these are also some of the guidelines they use in shadowban, something we are all awfully familiar with. Most of us get this strike during voting season when the algorithms flags us for any or a combination of behaviors above.


There’s an ongoing discourse that it could be a deliberate attack from other fandoms. I on one hand would look at it more from this standpoint: when Twitter developed their algorithms they were unable to foresee that the precision and efficiency of “bots” can actually be delivered organically by REAL PEOPLE  behind REAL ACCOUNTS through an intelligently designed strategy & well orchestrated execution.  They were unable to imagine the power of the BTS ARMY to build infrastructure, processes that mimic what they have defined as bot behavior and have thousands of people mobilizing around that. The proverbial Man vs. Machine.


The algorithm based software they have designed does not look into the content of the tweet, they look into patterns of behaviors and if they fit into parameters that were set us “bot” like. That being said we need to re-evaluate our online voting behavior. Our voting fanbases would need to reassess how to circumvent bot like behavior but still achieve the goal of mobilizing the fandom. We can go line by line on some of the items listed above and provide alternatives on how to navigate through it. If I’ll take a stab at it, it will look like this.

  • Tweeting a hundred times a day 
    • Limit volume of tweets
  • Gaining hundreds/thousands of followers in just a few days 
    •  Honestly don’t know what to do with this since this is a function of the fandom behavior. 
  • Tweeting around the clock 
    •  Limit frequency of tweets
  • Spam like tweets [tweets that look the same, repeating tweets] 
    •  Tweet diverse contents. I think voting accounts now need to provide relevant content as well instead of just tweeting for voting sake.
  • Tweet to a larger number of accounts they don’ follow 
    •  Follow real accounts, if they reply to a tweet, respond and engage.
  • How often they are blocked/muted by people they interact with or follow them 
    •  Fandom should not not block or mute the voting accounts they follow
  • Multiple accounts were created from a single IP address 
    • Voting fanbases do this a lot during voting season, we get a team of volunteers and have them create or use multiple accounts but they are created in a single IP. We might need to limit account creation from a single IP and instead really expand the number of volunteers in the circle of the voting teams and have them create a set number of accounts from their IP. In short, we need to spread out the line by line execution. 
    • Voting teams might  need to bring back geography based voting teams.
    • Voting fanbases would need to encourage small groups to organize themselves as voting teams instead of a heavy reliance on them. Provide them with best practices for organizing small voting teams, and other relevant information they would need. Adopt the strategy of the US Radio team [when they started]. Small groups from different areas organizing themselves towards an objective.
  • Following other accounts tagged as spam or bot.
    • Do not follow other voting accounts or accounts that have a tendency to behave like bots

There are many more ways to hack the parameters, but the core challenge is this – how do we achieve the voting mass we need and not fall under bot like behavior? Because the  truth is  these accounts are managed by DEDICATED HUMANS. It’s not our fault that the software designers/data scientists were unable to foresee how the power of humans who share a collective love for a group can bring to life what they consider as behaviors only machines are capable of.


We might need to really encourage site voting if site links are available. The concern with site voting is that it’s a blindspot for us because we can’t get data from it. Although maybe we can. Voting accounts can launch polls to ask ARMYs if they voted on the site on that day and how many times. And use that to extrapolate data on estimate votes entered via the site per day.


It also brings to light a another important discourse – if Twitter will continue to tighten it’s campaign, entities that launch these voting campaigns would also need to re-evaluate the criteria they are using. Perhaps Twitter engagement is no longer the place for it. 


Voting is very close to my heart as the first organized initiative I participated in when I became an ARMY was for the MAMA. So seeing our model challenged is frustrating but it’s also exciting. This might be an innovation opportunity for us and for our voting fanbases.

Reference/Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2018/07/06/twitter-is-sweeping-out-fake-accounts-like-never-before-putting-user-growth-risk/?noredirect=on

WHAT BTS, LG, LINE, HYUNDAI, KB AND MATTEL SHARE IN COMMON.

Recent endorsements of BTS have a common thread and share a story close to home, to BTS’ own past experiences. Can you guess what it is?

[1] A company that suffered major loses and wants to regain momentum [LG]

[2] An industry leader potentially losing market share with the advent of increasing competitors and possible market saturation [Line]

[3] A company entering a playing field off-shore that is slightly monopolized by bigger and badder entities [Hyundai]

[4] A company willing to think out of the box despite being in a traditional and conservative industry [KB]

[5] And the recent addition, a company that is part of a dying industry [Mattel]

The keyword: SURVIVAL. Each of the companies BTS and BH entered strategic partnerships with recently are either in the middle of a crisis or is breaking into new grounds and unchartered territories.

When an endorser chooses to represent a brand the first thing they look for is a “shared” something – a shared mission or vision or even a shared experience. A common ground.

The roster of recent endorsements by BTS are entities that seems to have a shared experience with BTS.

Like LG, BTS/BH understand what losing momentum means. They lived it. After receiving the Rookie of the Year Award and a potential for a promising future, they experience their lowest of low during the Danger era.

Similar to Line BTS/BH knows that the Kpop market is saturated. Intentional or not, they ended up competing elsewhere, in unchartered territories. A move that Hyundai is exploring.

BTS success is attributed largely to their authenticity and sincerity. It also helps that they and the rest of their team are innovators. They are explorers and out of the box thinkers willing to gamble on ideas and risk on direction. Something they seem to share in common with KB.

Mattel is part of the dying toy industry. With the advent of online gaming, the allure of tangible toys is lost. Sounds familiar? Of course! We live in a streaming age, where buying physical albums is outdated. And yet, BTS moves physical albums globally like they live in an era of their own. They said the album industry died. But BTS seems to resurrect it.

The monetary rewards of these partnership is a means to an end. It provides BH the opportunity to create an environment for BTS that will allow them to give birth to better music, dynamic performances and tell their stories to a wider array of audiences using top class storytelling mediums and styles.

But it’s never just about the money. The parameters used in selecting brands to endorse tells us that they are discerning about the alignment with their own stories, experiences, mission and vision. What they stand for.

BTS is the epitome of Generations Unlimited.

Disclaimer: I wrote this without proof reading and with the very little time I have during my 5minute break. So forgive my spelling, grammar or any other error.

BTS will speak in the UN in behalf of Unicef as the United Nations Development Program launches Generation Unlimited. The core of Generation Unlimited is to involve the young people in creating solutions for the world’s wicked problems. The program works with Unicef and other partners to launch youth-led and youth-centered solutions.

BTS as the emerging voice of this generation is the perfect spokesperson for this program. Coming from the heels of their globally successful LoveMyself and EndViolence campaign, they have the track record to not just influence the youth but to mobilize them.

The key areas the Generation Unlimited will address include:

  • Youth involvement in governance
  • Empowerment of young women
  • Developing leadership capabilities of young people
  • Youth led initiatives to address climate change
  • Social innovation

BTS is no stranger to these areas:

  • From Day 1 they have written socially conscious lyrics that represent the plight of the young people, they have written songs that encourages women to value themselves and the recent Love Yourself era touches the core of humanity – self love 
  • They also serve as great role models for the new generation of leaders the emerging future needs – resilient, creative, agile, out-of-the box thinkers, that live purposeful lives, are self-aware and practices mindfulness.
  • The group also serves as a perfect case study for modern-day collaboration framework. The process, the players, the roles and dynamics of how each song, music video and concept is created can serve as a guide in articulating how modern day problem solving should be done.
  • They are also a text book example of innovation, breaking barriers, trailblazing. Something that the Generation Unlimited program perhaps seeks to achieve with all the initiative they will be launching.

Being the spokesperson for Generation Unlimited will reshape BTS’ philanthropy work from the traditional dole-out or charity model to active and progressive nation building where  the solutions are created by the young people not just for the young people but for the world.

Yoongi’s dream of becoming one of the world’s most influential artist is slowly becoming a reality. A famous adage in the BTS ARMY fandom – “What Yoongi wants, Yoongi gets.”

 

Photo credits to: http://gk1world.com/gk-youth

Theory of Desirable Difficulties: BTSxARMY and the concept of “Acquired Courage”

Where does the BTS confidence come from? Many will say it stems from the unequivocal support they get from ARMYs. But I think there is much more to this than that. This confidence may actually also stem from the concept of “acquired courage” introduced by Malcolm Gladwell in his book David & Goliath. Acquired courage is achieved when you survive a difficult and fearful situation. You come out of it with great resolve and strength. 

BTS experienced what most artists fear the most after a successful debut:

  • the fear of being a one-hit wonder and not succeeding 
  • the fear of their artistry being questioned 

But  they survived their greatest fears, they came  out battered and bruised but with “acquired courage”. 

MacCurdy introduced the concept of direct hits and near misses. When the blow is fatal it is called a hit. In the context of careers, this happens to groups that failed after debuting or did not achieve anything significant during the course of their career. Near misses are those that went through difficult times and survived. Survivors of near misses come out of the experience a completely different person – more courageous. From surviving their difficult days, BTS were able to conquer their fears and build a confidence that allowed them to expand their spectrum and explore different things as artists. They make calculated risks. 

Since ARMYS went through the difficulties alongside them, we also came out with “acquired courage”. This can explain why we are driven and more open to exploring multitudes of ways to achieve our goals for BTS. We are not risk averse, we are willing to experience rejection on behalf of BTS and follow through until we achieve what others think is not possible. Surviving the unimaginable as a fandom also catapulted us to innovative thinking. To think outside of the box. 

“We are all of us not merely liable to fear, we are also prone to be afraid of being afraid, and the conquering of fear produces exhilaration. The contrast between previous apprehension and the present relief and feelings of security promotes a self-confidence that is the very father and mother of courage.” -J.T. MacCurdy [Canadian Psychiatrist that studied the 1940s London Bombing]

The Theory of Desirable Difficulties and How it Applies to BTS

According to Malcolm Gladwell’s book David and Goliath, conventional wisdom holds that a disadvantage is something that we ought to be avoiding. But that is not always the case. There are such thing as “desirable difficulties’, a concept conceived by Robert and Elizabeth Bjork, psychologists from UCLA. 

The theory states that “in some extraordinary cases, difficulties causes people to think more deeply about whatever they come across. The difficult situation requires the person to overcome insecurity and humiliation, focus hard and have the panache to put on a successful performance. What is earned out of necessity is inevitably more powerful than that which that comes easily.”

According to Jordan Peterson, individuals who were able to convert their “desirable difficulties” into opportunities normally have the following trait in common- mix of openness, conscientiousness and disagreeableness. 

Gladwell said that innovators need to be open, to imagine things others cannot and willing to challenge their own preconception. They  need to be conscientious or have the discipline and persistence to carry the big idea out. Interestingly enough they have to be disagreeable [does not mean obnoxious or unpleasant], it means they are people willing to take on social risks – to do things others might disapprove of. This is not an easy feat as society tends to frown on disagreeableness.

Let’s map out these concepts according to the BTS narrative.

It is no secret to any of us that BTS from the onset of their career experienced a number of difficulties.

  • hailing from a no name small company with a sordid history 
  • lacking of funds 
  • ignored, screen time cut from shows
  • ridiculed for a plethora of reasons that would take us a full day to go through
  • rudely criticized and accused of things that question their artistry
  • and the list can go on

However, in retrospect we can look at these as “desirable difficulties”. The fuel that gave birth to BTS as they are now. They had to overcome all these difficulties, focus on delivering quality output and have the confidence to believe in the quality of their work and put out successful materials one after the other. BTS had to earn their keep. 

BTS also shares the 3 key trait that Jordan Peterson identified as common amongst revolutionaries and innovators.

Openness – BTS is open to all forms of experience. They are willing to try different things. Their eclectic taste in music, fashion, books and  almost anything they touch is barometer of how open they are. Being open allows them to get inspiration from different directions which they then channel towards their music, performance and content.

Conscientiousness – Vignettes of how hard each and everyone work on their choreography, the sleepless nights the Producer line have to endure to come out with quality music, and the humanely impossible to survive back-to-back schedules they go through is a testament to the deeply rooted discipline and persistence they have to make things happen.

Disagreeableness – BTS have always been know to take the road less travelled – write songs about society, mental health, identity, and self love just to name a few of their themes. To hold a stand and voice opinion on more or less sensitive matters. To break boundaries of what people say is possible or not. BTS is a testament to “testing the limits” and not being “boxed” by preconceived notions of who they should be.

All of us go through difficulties, the question is are we capable of turning them into “desirable difficulties”? Let’s take our cue from BTS.

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