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In 2011, the Finnish Tourist Board ran a campaign that used silence as a marketing ‘product’. They sought to entice people to visit Finland and experience the beauty of this silent land. They released a series of photographs of single figures in the nature and used the slogan “Silence, Please”. A tag line was added by Simon Anholt, an international country branding consultant, “No talking, but action.”

Eva Kiviranta the manager of the social media for VisitFinland.comsaid: “We decided, instead of saying that it’s really empty and really quiet and nobody is talking about anything here, let’s embrace it and make it a good thing”.

Finland may be on to something very big. You could be seeing the very beginnings of using silence as a selling point as silence may be becoming more and more attractive. As the world around becomes increasingly loud and cluttered you may find yourself seeking out the reprieve that silent places and silence have to offer. This may be a wise move as studies are showing that silence is much more important to your brains than you might think.

Regenerated brain cells may be just a matter of silence.

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A 2013 study on mice published in the journal Brain, Structure and Function used differed types of noise and silence and monitored the effect the sound and silence had on the brains of the mice. The silence was intended to be the control in the study but what they found was surprising. The scientists discovered that when the mice were exposed to two hours of silence per day they developed new cells in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is a region of the brain associated with memory, emotion and learning.

The growth of new cells in the brain does not necessarily translate to tangible health benefits. However, in this instance, researcher Imke Kirste says that the cells appeared to become functioning neurons.

“We saw that silence is really helping the new generated cells to differentiate into neurons, and integrate into the system.”

In this sense silence can quite literally grow your brain.

The brain is actively internalizing and evaluating information during silence

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A 2001 study defined a “default mode” of brain function that showed that even when the brain was “resting” it was perpetually active internalizing and evaluating information.

Follow-up research found that the default mode is also used during the process of self-reflection. In 2013, in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, Joseph Moran et al. wrote, the brain’s default mode network “is observed most closely during the psychological task of reflecting on one’s personalities and characteristics (self-reflection), rather than during self-recognition, thinking of the self-concept, or thinking about self-esteem, for example.”

When the brain rests it is able to integrate internal and external information into “a conscious workspace,” said Moran and colleagues.

When you are not distracted by noise or goal-orientated tasks, there appears to be a quiet time that allows your conscious workspace to process things. During these periods of silence, your brain has the freedom it needs to discover its place in your internal and external world.

The default mode helps you think about profound things in an imaginative way.

As Herman Melville once wrote, “All profound things and emotions of things are preceded and attended by silence.

Silence relieves stress and tension.

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It has been found that noise can have a pronounced physical effect on our brains resulting in elevated levels of stress hormones. The sound waves reach the brain as electrical signals via the ear. The body reacts to these signals even if it is sleeping. It is thought that the amygdalae (located in the temporal lobes of the brain) which is associated with memory formation and emotion is activated and this causes a release of stress hormones. If you live in a consistently noisy environment that you are likely to experience chronically elevated levels of stress hormones.

A study that was published in 2002 in Psychological Science (Vol. 13, No. 9) examined the effects that the relocation of Munich’s airport had on children’s health and cognition. Gary W. Evans, a professor of human ecology at Cornell University notes that children who are exposed to noise develop a stress response that causes them to ignore the noise. What is of interest is that these children not only ignored harmful stimuli they also ignored stimuli that they should be paying attention to such as speech.

“This study is among the strongest, probably the most definitive proof that noise – even at levels that do not produce any hearing damage – causes stress and is harmful to humans,” Evans says.

Silence seems to have the opposite effect of the brain to noise. While noise may cause stress and tension silence releases tension in the brain and body. A study published in the journal Heart discovered that two minutes of silence can prove to be even more relaxing than listening to “relaxing” music. They based these findings of changes they noticed in blood pressure and blood circulation in the brain.

Silence replenishes our cognitive resources.

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The effect that noise pollution can have on cognitive task performance has been extensively studied. It has been found that noise harms task performance at work and school. It can also be the cause of decreased motivation and an increase in error making.  The cognitive functions most strongly affected by noise are reading attention, memory and problem solving.

Studies have also concluded that children exposed to households or classrooms near airplane flight paths, railways or highways have lower reading scores and are slower in their development of cognitive and language skills.

But it is not all bad news. It is possible for the brain to restore its finite cognitive resources. According to the attention restoration theory when you are in an environment with lower levels of sensory input the brain can ‘recover’ some of its cognitive abilities. In silence the brain is able to let down its sensory guard and restore some of what has been ‘lost’ through excess noise. 

Summation

Traveling to Finland may just well be on your list of things to do. There you may find the silence you need to help your brain. Or, if Finland is a bit out of reach for now, you could simply take a quiet walk in a peaceful place in your neighborhood. This might prove to do you and your brain a world of good.

Source:  lifehack.org

Categorized in Others

Thank you for joining me for the third segment of The Launching Pad’s Small Steps: Big Leaps series aimed at helping Americans from diverse professional backgrounds embark on successful entrepreneurial careers and thereby revive the U.S. economy. For more information on this series, check out my April 2nd post, and to join this movement to grow the economy through large- and small-scale entrepreneurship, please check out The Startup Stand.

In the first two installments of this series, we have discussed identifying a need in your (broadly defined) community and identifying, utilizing, and developing your talents and skills. The third critical step to launching a successful venture is conducting market research, whether formally or informally.

The potential market for your products or services can be defined as the pool of consumers or businesses who would consider purchasing them. In other words, they have a need that your business might help them address. It is key to clearly define your market before endeavoring to conduct research. For example, if want to open an athletic store, you need to decide if you will cater to runners, swimmers, golfers, tennis players or all of the above as well as if you will focus just on one segment like footwear or broaden to include apparel, equipment and more. Once you define the scope of your potential business and the corresponding potential market for your products and services, you need to determine why a consumer or business would purchase from you rather than a competitor. Do you offer the lowest price? Unparalleled service? A unique product mix not available elsewhere? Before investing significant time and money in actually starting your business you need to find your niche and determine your clients’ willingness to pay for your offering.

To obtain such crucial information, entrepreneurs use a variety of resources to conduct market research. Broad sources of demographic information, such as your local chamber of commerce, the U.S. Census Bureau, and the SBA, provide valuable information to business owners and should be explored thoroughly particularly as you consider where to locate your business (if you will have a customer-facing physical location). One invaluable tool that was made available last September by the SBA is SizeUp. With SizeUp, you can input your business’s industry and city and it maps out your competition, highlighting areas with abundant competition in orange and areas with a lot of potential customers but few competitors in green. Your competitors’ prices and performance are also available which is helpful for new and expanding businesses. SizeUp can also point you to the best channels through which to advertise. The tool will show you areas with the highest annual revenue for your selected industry, and you can tweak the results based on audiences you wish to target; for example, you can use income level and other filters to focus on specific consumers.

Be sure to also conduct your own primary research to get information specific to your particular, unique business and the sub-set of consumers you hope to attract. A few research tools to consider include interviews, surveys, questionnaires, and focus groups, which can identify critical information about the importance of price and certain features as well as the strengths and weaknesses of competitors. For example, before I started my company, Stratus Prep, I held focus groups to determine the market size and willingness to pay for industry-leading test prep and admissions counseling services. This process also helped me identify which specific features were most important to potential customers (such as weekend availability and the unmet need for study space open to students). I then compared the consumer information I gathered to my cost structure to ensure that even after expenses like paying employees, renting space and developing materials, the business would be profitable in the short- or medium-term based on the price consumers were willing to pay. Fortunately, this research paid off as we were profitable within our first four months of operations and have never been in the red since then.

It is important to be open-minded and adaptable when conducting market analysis as some of the feedback you hear may not be exactly what you were expecting and hoping for. You may feel attached to your business idea and wish to change nothing about it, but after conducting a survey maybe you find that customers are looking for a slightly different service or additional features. Do not scrap your idea, but do consider adjustments to accommodate your customers’ demands. Remember that you are just one consumer and likely a slightly idiosyncratic one at that. You want your business to have relatively broad appeal.

A great example of a company which performed such market analysis is JetBlue, which prior to launching, determined that airline passengers cared more about comfortable leather seating and TV entertainment than a hot meal, a first class cabin, and the other “amenities” offered by legacy carriers. JetBlue invested in upgraded seating and TVs and emphasized a relaxing, calm journey at a relatively modest price. The strategy campaign was so successful that other airlines soon followed suit and numerous imitators emerged.

Another example of a business that identified and catered to unmet consumer needs is Starbucks, which turned an everyday beverage into an experience. While Starbucks SBUX +1.29% is known for its quality coffee and other tasty drinks, it is also renowned for its atmosphere, where business professionals, college students, writers and anyone who wants to kick back can set up shop for hours with free wifi and a comfortable workspace. The modifications made to the industry standard drew an enormous and loyal following, which is why today there is a Starbucks on every corner. Starbucks determined what consumers wanted and just how much they would pay for it and revolutionized an industry.

By doing your homework before starting your business, you can be assured that your product or service is properly priced and positioned and you are offering the most sought after attributes. This will make your company a powerful force in a competitive business landscape.

You are now armed with the first three steps to starting your own business and revolutionizing not only your economic future but also that of your community and the nation. Check back next Tuesday for step 4 on finding and leveraging operational efficiencies.

What have you discovered through your market research? Let me know in the comments, email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or contact me via Twitter at @shawnpoconnor. If you would like to be a Startup Stand featured entrepreneur, send me your bio and picture for a chance to be featured in our weekly email and inspire others to pursue entrepreneurship!

Source : http://www.forbes.com/sites/shawnoconnor/2013/04/23/step-3-for-a-successful-startup-the-importance-of-market-research/#420005ee7596

Categorized in Market Research

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