53. The Impact of Writing & Innovation in B2B | Mark Dancer, CEO at Network for Business Innovation

Episode 53

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The Impact of Writing & Innovation in B2B | Mark Dancer

In the latest episode of Driven by DCKAP, Karthik is joined by Mark Dancer, CEO at Network for Business Innovation and a distinguished NAW Fellow. They discuss Mark’s background, including his influence through Mark Dancer on Flourishing Business, his partnership with NAW, his vision for Innovate to Dominate, the process of writing, how to gain influence, and the growing need for innovation in distribution.

Tune in to gain valuable insights on the importance of innovation as a tool for growth, the impact of influential writing and more.


Karthik Chidambaram: Hello, everyone. Welcome to a brand new episode of
DCKAP’s Driven podcast.

They say that you surround yourself with very, very smart people and you
also get smart. So I'm very excited today because we have with us Mark
Dancer, the CEO of Network for Business Innovation and also a NAW fellow.

Mark, I enjoyed meeting you at the NAW conference in Washington, D.C. And
good to see you again. And thanks so much for your time. And thanks for
joining DCKAP’s Driven podcast.

Mark Dancer: Yeah, that event, the NAW's annual Executive Summit was
fantastic. They're getting better every year. And I remember our
conversation, Karthik, it was terrific. And I'm really excited to be here
today and speak with you again.

Karthik Chidambaram: Thank you, Mark. Mark in this Driven podcast, I want to
focus on two things. So one is writing because you're a great writer and two
is innovation. You do a lot of innovation or you advise a lot of
distributors on innovation. So I just want to focus this podcast on writing
and innovation, but let me start this with writing.

So tell us about the Mark Dancer on Flourishing Business. I enjoyed reading
your newsletters on Substack. I recently subscribed to it as well. So what
inspired this initiative and who's your audience?

Mark Dancer: Yeah, so I was a consultant for a long time and I don't do that
anymore. I stopped consulting when the tools that I had, I felt were just
terrifically outdated given all that's happening with data and digital
technologies and the epic changes that we're going through.

And so, you know, I'm at a point in my career where I'm just trying to make
a difference, right? I'm trying to make a contribution where I can. And, and
I just, somehow I found my way to Substack as a platform for writers. And I
was very intrigued by their mission of the importance of writing and the
importance of reading.

And so I just started writing. I'm not a natural writer. I'm an engineer by
education. I think about making a difference, you know, in two ways. One, I
really believe that distribution and distributors really have the right
stub. To help us as, you know, as a society and as businesses and as workers
to help us get through all of the epic challenges and changes that we're

And so part of my mission is to kind of unlock some ideas that can help
distributors achieve that potential. And then I'm also just looking for
anyone I can help individually, a business, a person. If I get, you know, I
think if I keep writing and it's worthwhile and it's useful and I can just
spark, you know, one new company, one new idea, I'll feel pretty happy.

Karthik Chidambaram: That's awesome, Mark. One new company, if you're able
to influence, that's awesome, right? I think that makes a big difference.

So, Mark, a lot of people, there are a lot of influencers today and
everybody wants to be an influencer and you are a writer and you also
produce videos. And you also speak at events.

How can people grow their influence, by writing or producing videos or
speaking? What's the process like? You know, let's say there's an aspiring
writer out there and they want to grow their influence. How can they do

Mark Dancer: Yeah, well, first you’ve got to be a writer. If you want to be
a writer, you’ve got to be one, which means you've got to, I think you need
to write every day, to hone your skills, and you should have an editor.

You should give feedback. You should listen to podcasts, right? That sort of
thing. And then I think it's, you mentioned influencers, you know, I think
you've got to decide. Well, it's not really ‘decide’, it's you have to know
the part of your work, which is writing, which is a craft and as an art, and
I think should be purpose driven and you know, and you can kind of develop

And then there's the influencer side of it, which is really about marketing
and building presence. And those two things are different. One is the act of
writing. One is the business of writing, and I think as a writer, I
personally start with the act of writing, and I'm not very good, frankly, at
the influencer side, you know, which is marketing and building my base.

So I think there's two things. One, you need to have a formula. I think
about- I'm inspired by a book called, The Nexus, by a gentleman named Julio
Tino with a famous designer named Bruce Mao. And his idea is that to solve
the great problems we have today, we need a convergence of art, science, and

So I try to do that in every single edition, the art of writing, the art of
videos, leverage AI, leverage technology. I think you need that. And then
you need to figure out, you know, sponsors or funding, which is a harder

Karthik Chidambaram: Interesting. What is the process you follow with
respect to writing? You said you write every day, but how much do you write
and what is the process like, right?

Because I think you publish a newsletter once every two weeks. And what is
the process like, you know, where do you come up with these ideas? Like for
instance, you know, you’ve got to get something out every two weeks, you
know. I also try to write, and what is the process you follow for writing?

Mark Dancer: Yeah, so I used to write every week. For a time I wrote twice a
week. I've got about almost 200 editions out now. And recently I kind of
slowed down my pace to make it every other week. And that's because writing
is, I think it's much more than the act of putting pen to paper or fingers
to a keyboard, right?

Writing is about listening, right? So you have to think about where you want
to draw your inspiration, where you want to draw your research, and you have
to access that by reading or listening and then talking, you know, you have
to have a conversation. And I do that, that kind of thing continuously.

Every moment of every day, I'm trying to think about that in my personal
conversations or things that are more kind of related to my profession, that
sort of thing. Out of that, I craft an idea. I have a little tote board of
like five ideas, but I really just work on one idea for two weeks.

Then eventually I start putting thoughts on a keyboard. Sometimes that's in
little snippets. I'll write a paragraph here and there, but once I feel like
I've got it in my head, I sit down and write it kind of end to end. I send
it through Grammarly as an AI check. ChatGPT has a creative writing
assistant now, and I use that.

And then when I think it's ready, I send it to, I have a professional
editor, somebody who's edited some of my books and has worked with me on all
of my editions. She knows my voice, my style, what I'm trying to accomplish.
And so she fixes grammar and things like that, which are hopefully pretty
well taken care of with the AI tools.

And then she helps make sure I'm on strategy. And then once you do that,
you've got to get it out there. So writing also includes publishing it and
sharing it and asking your readers and others for feedback, right? That's,
that's the process. You know, I also, I'll also say this, I've been reading
about the act of writing and how to live a life as a writer, because that's
kind of what I'm trying to do now.

I believe, you know, I have a personal life. I have a partner, Carol, and
like in all relationships, you have to work on them all the time. And so
part of my philosophy of being a good writer is to be a good partner. I
think that the act of listening and processing those thoughts and having a
conversation, which are essential for writing, are also essential for life
and for the right relationship.

So, you know, I can't think about, I'm going to go away and write and, you
know, all by myself. It has to be part of living. I think being a better
writer makes me a better partner. And a better friend, a better family
member, and I think being a better partner, friend, and family member makes
me a better writer.

Karthik Chidambaram: That's awesome. It's not one or the other, it is
everything together. So, very interesting, Mark, and thanks for sharing your
writing secrets. Do you also journal every day? I'm just curious, you know,
because I see a lot of writers' journal as well. So do you journal?

Mark Dancer: A little bit, a little bit. I have. I use an iPhone and they
have a journaling thing. And when I'm out walking around or in the world, if
I've got that with me and I have an idea, I journal it. It's pretty
automated, not completely.

I also have a written notebook that I carry around and because sometimes my
writing process is that I have to draw pictures, you know, I'm an engineer
and I think about systems, so I have to draw like, you know, two, three,
five things and show how they interact.

So I do that in pen and paper, because it's a little bit easier.

Karthik Chidambaram: I think pen and paper makes a lot of sense. I do write
with pen and paper as well. And sometimes, you know, when you're traveling
on the plane, something strikes and then, Hey, you know, you immediately jot
it down. So that really helps me.

That's something I've found to be very helpful because once you have the
idea, it's easy to construct a story, but then you have the idea, then you
forget it. Right. Then, you know, if you don't write it,

Mark Dancer: I love ideas. I'm addicted to ideas. You know, I get a little
bit of an endorphin or something hit every time I have an idea.

So if I don't write them down, I'm searching for the new one all the time.
So I need that history. You know, the other thing, I wrote an edition, I
don't know, three or four or five back about. I was inspired by a podcast I
was into, which is on the science of reading, right? And it was, they were
contrasting it with social media reading, you know, which is quick and
snippy and that sort of thing with really deep, immersive reading with a
physical book, right?

And they said that when you read that way, you're really kind of involved in
the book or the article, whatever you're reading. It fires every center of
your brain, every physical corner of your brain, and it leads to new
thoughts. Right? So the one of the other principles of writing, I think, is
that you're actually connecting with your reader's brains, right?

And you're trying to, you know, for me, it's by having a little bit of art,
the images I create now with AI and sometimes with my camera, a little bit
of technology. You know, and thinking about the science of reading and
writing. All of that is designed to energize my brain and my reader's brain.
Look, that's a little nerdy answer, but it's true I think.

Karthik Chidambaram: Sure. You talked about reading, and readers are
leaders. How important is reading to writing? How do you-

Mark Dancer: Yeah, I mean, you can't be a good writer if you're not a good
reader. That's, that's your craft, right? You're creating things to read. So
I have a couple of approaches. I read. I like to read novels, you know,
because that's fiction and I write nonfiction.

I will read- I struggle a little bit with reading sometimes because when I
start reading a book, I'm wondering where it's going and my mind starts
wandering and I stop reading. Right. So I listen to podcasts and I find the
books I read through that because I feel like I know the author. And what
they're trying to accomplish.

And then when I get into the book, I'm kind of more engaged on a personal
level. I also, on my iPhone, I have a little group, you know, of things I
read. And I've got the journal, Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and
then a number of fellow newsletter writers and some other things. And I scan
those, but that's not really reading, right?

When I want to, when I want to read for effect, I make sure that I, you
know, slow down, get rid of distractions and put my mind to it.

Karthik Chidambaram: Yeah, deep work. So you talked about marketing a little
bit. So, I mean a lot of people write, but how important is marketing for a
writer? And how does one become a better marketer, right?

So, for instance, hey, I write, obviously I want my writing to be read
across the world I want a lot of people to read it. So what is the process
and what do you do to make that happen?

Mark Dancer: Yeah, so I need help there actually. It's because I like
writing, you know, I like that process. I'm a little bit addicted to it And
the business of writing, the business of being a writer, I sometimes feel
like that's a distraction to my writing.

So I look for help, right? And Substack as a platform, I would give them
plenty of kudos. They have lots of resources and they're building, Substack
only, they only make money. If you make money, right, so you can publish for
free. You're free of free newsletter edition there forever and never pay a
dime for using the site.

So they want you to be able to get paid subscriptions to have patrons, that
sort of thing and so there are a number of streams that they have where you
can read about how to become the business of writing, I would say, and you
can also connect with other writers through Substack and get their advice.

That's all very important to me because I'm not a natural in the business of
writing. And then the other thing that I'm doing recently is I don't, I'm
not really looking for sponsors per se, you know, I've done a ton of
presentations over the years for companies, vendors who supply the industry
where, you know, I would get paid to do a webcast and, but I'm kind of just
eye candy there.

I attract people. What they really want is the list of people who attend and
make a market to them. I'm looking for patrons, you know, and humbly in the
way that, you know, Da Vinci or Michelangelo had a patron who not only
helped fund their work, but actually help them try to become better writers
through their network, the people that they can introduce them to helping
them with skills, helping them with technology, that sort of thing.

And so my idea is that if I focus on writing and I'm true to my mission and
Substack for some resources and I can find some patrons who really like what
I do and want to help me be a better writer, help me be more effective.
That's kind of how I'm moving forward to, to do a better job at the business
of writing.

Karthik Chidambaram: So I really like how transparent you are in terms of
what you're doing and what is that you're looking for. Hey, you know, I need
patrons. I think that's really well said, and a lot of writers I'm sure can
take inspiration from that and patrons do help writers.

So I was reading one of your recent newsletters, the power of proximity. I
thought that was very interesting. But one thing I found fascinating is you
also started experimenting with videos. Yeah. I watched the whole video. It
was actually well made. And tell us about that process, right? So, okay, you
know, you're a writer, but now why videos?

Mark Dancer: Well, first, I really appreciate your feedback that the video
was well made because I have this phobia about looking at myself, right? I
think I'm a writer because I can read my writing And I can try to make it
better myself and get feedback. But when I see myself as a video in a video,
I'm like, Oh God, you know, I stink, I just can't look at it.

So your feedback that it's good is really helpful. I'm doing videos, one,
because some of my readers, you know, a lot of my readers tell me they
prefer videos, right? They don't really want to slow down to read and they
can watch a video while they're driving. I guess they could listen, you
know, sometimes a video is just, it's just the author or an AI tool reading
what's written.

So, I'm trying to find my way in videos and it's sort of, I'm applying
this art, you know, the convergence of art, science and technology sort of
thing. I bought a gimbal recently, so I can maybe walk around or give some
movement in the videos. That's the technology side of it. The science side
of it, I haven't found a lot yet, but I know I've read about how people
connect mind to mind through reading.

I'm looking for that in videos. And then I'm interested in the art of it.
You know, I'm a passionate personal amateur photographer. You know, I've
spent a ton of money on cameras over the years, but I don't use, I just use
my iPhone now. And so I think that if I can, my approach is going to be with

It might be just to say, hey, please read the article, but here's what
inspired me. Here's my passion. I might have interviews with people that I
embed in it. I might tell a story from some of my work as a consultant or in
my life or why it's relevant.

I don't want it just to be a recreation of video, of the written content. I
want it to be complimentary, and I'm trying to figure that out.

Karthik Chidambaram: Well, it's very interesting. And you also get to watch
the video in 1.5 X speed. So let's say if I want to consume the content
faster it would help. And this is something my dad told me. If people start
watching you over and over again, they'll start liking you and you'll also
start liking yourself more. So yeah, that's something, you know, I just
thought that was interesting. Yeah. That was interesting.

Mark Dancer: I'm a big believer in podcasts, you know, because if you
can, I have certain styles that I like and people that I like, and I rotate
it, but I really feel that if I listen to somebody for an hour I've learned
something about them.

And now I have, and if I can watch them so much, the better, right. And I
think that that really helps me from figuring out what I want to write
about, what my messages are, and how to communicate through my videos. Huge
fan of that.

Karthik Chidambaram: Absolutely. And yeah, again, I have subscribed to Mark
Dancer on Flourishing Business on Substack. I really enjoy reading your
newsletters and for the audience out there, I also highly encourage them to
subscribe to your Substack newsletter.

But let's switch gears a little bit, Mark. Let's talk about innovation and
distribution. You are an NAW fellow, and for the audience out there who are
not very familiar with NAW, NAW is the National Association of Wholesale
Distribution or Distributors.

So what does a NAW fellow mean and what is your role there?

Mark Dancer: Well, first, I love NAW because they've allowed me to pursue my
passion. And with, through writing, I've kind of become a writer. Through
NAW. So they have a lot to do with where I am today. You know, NAW's old
model used to be they had a research, they still have the research arm, but
they used to, I think it's fair to say that publishing books and research
was a business for them. They made money at it.

That has been really hard over the last several years because people don't
buy books like they bought anymore. So you know, I work very closely with
Eric Hopland, the CEO, but especially Bart Tessel, who is the chief
innovation officer at NAW and with Patty Rausch.

Who is the VP of education and also runs the AEC. She's the executive
director of the association executive council, which are all the other
industry associations that belong to NAW. So. My fellowship has really
evolved. I wrote a book on CRM. I wrote a book on becoming a digital
distributor. I wrote a book on getting results from your digital

And then I wrote a paper, and some other things too, but a paper on how
distributors leaned in during the pandemic, you know, not just to survive,
but to help their customers survive. Right? And that end trajectory, all the
books before it has kind of set me on my path to look for breakthrough
innovations, right?

There are- distributors have a lot of resources that give them best
practices, continuous improvement, but what we don't have, because
distributors don't do R&D, there's no budget. There isn't a lot of well,
what if we open ourselves up to possibilities, what might our business
become, you know, business model innovation could be, can we be something
radically different than we are today?

So my innovation, my fellowship is a continuing conversation every two
weeks. You know, it might be a book someday, but really it's just evolving.
And I'm looking for the ideas. The people who have the ideas and are making
them happen. You know, I think the ultimate purpose of distribution is to
help us all live our lives and do our work to help our, help us flourish,

And so that's what I do as a fellow and our collaboration is I do what I do.
They do what they do, and we overlap enough that it's a really effective
partnership. We're trying to achieve the same things for distributors.

Karthik Chidambaram: It's awesome. And I love the term Innovate to Dominate.
So can you tell us a couple of things from the book.

How can distributors innovate to dominate? You know, what are they not doing
right now, or what is that one thing they need to be doing?

Mark Dancer: Yeah, so that phrase came when I was working with Ruth Stadius
and Trish Lilly when I wrote Innovate to Dominate. And we were just talking
about our findings, the work I was doing, and I was like, ah!

I really want distributors, you know, they have a really tough business
model because they are intermediary, right? So their price and their value
is determined by their position in the supply chain or the value chain,
right. And I was like, I kind of remember saying, you know, I want to break
us out of that mold.

We're always going to be an intermediary. But how do we, how can we, what
can we do so that our profits aren't constrained so that we're not adding
value to products, but we're creating our own value through the things that
we know, the people, the suppliers that we know beyond our manufacturers,
the people who have knowledge and resources and skills and tools.

And so we were talking about that and, you know, I just, the word I would
probably credit Ruth Stadius and Trish Lilly, but the title popped out of
that- Innovate to Dominate. Let's be bold. Let's aim high. Let's think about
not just adding value to products, but dominating in our marketplace.

Karthik Chidambaram: Yeah, dominate. I love the way you say dominate, right?
So I think it really dominates. Yeah, I think it's also

Mark Dancer: I also think it's a better D word. You know, I'll be a writer
here for a second. There is disruption and disintermediation, right? Both of
those are done. Two distributors. So, you know, distributors by, by
definition, a disruption is done from the outside.

Disintermediation is manufacturers not using distributors as much anymore.
Right? So we need our own D word, something we can do, and that's
‘dominate’. And I think we have the right stuff for doing that. And as I
said earlier, with all that's happening.

Karthik Chidambaram: Yeah, you work with a lot of distributors. Can you
share a couple of examples where distributors are innovating and dominating?

Mark Dancer: Yeah, sure. Absolutely. There's a long list, right? I've
worked, you know, so first a little context. I think distributors are doing
great things with artificial intelligence and data and that in the future
data is going to be more important than products. So we're moving in the
right direction there.

But the distribution business model has something really unique. You know,
in the United States, distributors are an eight trillion dollar industry.
That's a third of the economy, but they're not Amazon. Distributors have
branches and people in every community working side by side with the
customers they serve.

We are, distributors are local real world businesses. So I would say that
dominating comes from culture. Culture is human centric. It's person to
person, right? I've written about material handling ink, which is a regional
distributor of material handling equipment. Mike Sane has helped me out
quite a bit.

When they interview for candidates, they ask them where they're contributing
their time. You know, what are you doing? Are you giving back? Because they
want to import that culture into their business and they work with their
customers that way, you know, how can I help you? Doesn't, you know, beyond
the products that I sell, maybe just what can I do to help?

I also like, would point to maybe Chuck Cohen and Benco Dental, right? They
have the idea that as a distributor, they can write about the future of the
dental industry. And that's a hard place for distributors to have
credibility sometimes, right? Because we don't make, we don't manufacture
the products and we're not dentists, but they're building a culture around
having a high percentage of their products being invented in the recent

And offering papers, putting it out there in print, of what they think the
future of dentistry is. I went to a new periodontist recently, and I have my
gums checked. And he asked what I did, and I told him. And then I said, so,
do you know Benko Dental? And he did! And he said, yeah, they're very
innovative to me.

That's dominating, right? I think in the future, if I go just a little bit
longer on that, we need to have our own point of view on how data and
artificial intelligence will lead us to dominate, right? What we're doing
right now is building confidence, letting our systems talk to each other,
using it to help us be more productive and every function, all that's

I don't really know, and there probably exists, but I don't know a
distributor yet who's using AI to create value in the customer's business,
right? We're using it to create value in our business, I think, for the most
part, right? When we do that, we will lead the data revolution forward and

Karthik Chidambaram: Oh, very interesting. Dominate. And it's also about
process innovation, right? So it's not just about creating a product or you
know, it's also about hiring, you know, how you hire, hiring innovation,
process innovation. Yes. Being a thought leader. Yeah.

Mark Dancer: So, you know what, I asked a distributor once, or they asked me
first, and then I asked another distributor.

It's like, so what are we innovating? You know, we can't innovate products
because we don't make products, right? So it's a tough question. And I think
it's process innovation, it's culture innovation, it's job definition
innovation, and all that adds up to business model innovation, right?
There's a, I have- if I were to say what should a distributor do right now,
right, they should talk to their customers, ask them what their aspirations
are, and then figure out how to help them do that.

And the business model for that is a thing you can read about it. It's
called being an innovation intermediary. I love that, when I first heard
this term, cause it's got intermediary attached to it. And innovation
intermediary is any business that leverages what it knows. And what it can
do and its larger network to help another company innovate, right?

So we are innovate intermediaries of products. We're intermediaries of
knowledge. Increasingly, we have relationships with universities. We can be
intermediaries for services. And if we just listen to where the customers
want to go and then work with them to get there, that will help us transform
our business model almost overnight.

We can do that tomorrow.

Karthik Chidambaram: No, definitely. And I also think distributors can also
focus a lot more on culture and they can also, you know, focus a little bit
or copy from the tech industry. Hey, what are the things they're doing?
Well, you don't have to copy everything.

But yeah, you know, sometimes, one thing I do find is information is not
really passed across. Yeah, the employees in the distribution company,
people don't know really what's happening. So I think, you know, it's kind
of nice if people get to know what's really happening within the company,
within the industry. So people feel more empowered to work with their

Mark Dancer: Stanford university has a great podcast called The Future of
Everything. It's about science and technology, all kinds of applications. I
haven't listened to it yet, but I noticed that their most recent episode is
on the science of culture.

I think that distributors and our ecosystem, you know, should really hone
into that because we're people centric businesses, right? And we can do that
with excellence and that will lead to innovation.

Karthik Chidambaram: Awesome. You're also a part of the TWIN Global Network.
What is the TWIN Global Network and what is your role there?

Mark Dancer: Yeah, so TWIN stands for the World Innovation Network. Rob
Wolcott, who's an associate professor at Chicago and Northwestern is the co
founder. And I found him as a resource when I started thinking about
business model innovation in my books for NAW years ago.

Oh, nice. Brought some of his knowledge into it. Twin is like it's a
volunteer network of really world class innovators and people who want to
tell their story. So there's people there from the forefront of technology,
IT, from space, from healthcare. They have winning documentarians who are
there, people that do design thinking and design and practice.

And Rob gets them together once a year, usually at a big annual event. And
then he does these expeditions. There was one recently in Africa. People go
because they're curious and because they're innovators and they want to help
other innovators be innovators. For me, the one, as I started going to this,
I don't know, 5, 6, 8 years ago, maybe 10 years ago, the one body that was
not represented was distributors and the supply chain.

So I've been working on getting something to go for years. Last year Ben
Cohen, who has proton AI, went with me, he's the son of a distributor and
he's creating an AI for distributors. And then Max Meister of Ludwig
Meister, an industrial distributor in Germany came with me. So I hope to
draw, you know, more.

And actually Kathy Mazzarella spoke at, during COVID, at a completely
virtual event to about 30 or 40 ‘twinians’, as they call themselves.

So, it's inspiration for me and for others. It's networking, it's getting
help. It's just world class and it's one of my major resources for the work
that I do. Maybe the major resource.

Karthik Chidambaram: That's awesome. Thanks for representing distribution in
the network.

So Mark, you worked as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy for over six years, so
it's very interesting. So how has that experience helped in your business

Mark Dancer: Yeah, so it was very formative. You know, I went to the Naval
Academy and I served in the fleet, as they say, way back in the Reagan
years. It's you know, the, what I, what I might, I had several takeaways
from my military experiments.

One is, mission, you know, so I'm very Episodic in that when I was a
consultant, it was perfect. It's why I gravitated to consultant because
you’ve got a mission, you do it for three months or six months, and then
you're on your next mission and writing a newsletter. Every two weeks is
like that too. In the Navy and the U.S. military in general it's not the
officers that get things done.

It's the enlisted folks, right? And so I learned very quickly that you need
to treat them as experts. You know, find out what their job is and treat
them as an expert in that job. And my job was to make them successful with
resources and to hold them to standards. But that is where the Navy's
culture comes from, right?

I also did nuclear propulsion. That was fun. So I learned how to operate
nuclear reactors at sea, and that's a whole other discussion, but that was
that really helped me with my systems thinking, I guess, and to see things
operating as a total system and know how to deal with it when things aren't
going well, so.

Karthik Chidambaram: Yeah, and a few ending questions, a few last ending
questions for our Driven podcast.

We interview a lot of leaders, and the last leader we interviewed, right? So
this is a question we always like to ask, or we just started asking
recently, is- what is one question you want to ask the next person we

So the last person we interviewed was Muliadi Jeo. He's from Indonesia. He's
the CTO of a company called Sirclo. And the question he wanted to ask
leadership on being a leader is sometimes it is lonely at the top. So how
can you not be lonely? So how do you respond to that?

Mark Dancer: Therapy? Maybe I'm actually looking for a therapist who is kind
of you know, a copilot for my life. We'll see if that works.

But I think that, you know, we're doing so many things in the digital world
that which is virtual, right? And so I think every business leader should be
thinking about. How their business advances the human condition, you know,
and they should have the skills to do that. And if they do that, You know,
at the core of the human condition is relationships and relationships, you
know relationships and barring from Arthur Brooks, who spoke at NAW a couple
years ago, he says that happiness comes from three things.

You know, and I'm going to paraphrase. I'm sure I'm not going to get it
quite right here. But happiness is from relationships, purpose and
accomplishments, right? And so if a distributor leader applies Arthur
Brooks' thinking to how does their business advance the human condition and
they're working on relationships and they're, you know, they're, they're
working on all that flows from that, you know, that'll help them not feel

And it's tied to their business. So they don't, they don't have to think,
Oh, I got to go away from my business and do something to not be lonely. I
think they should do it in their business. So how, how does your business
advance the human condition? How does that lead to your happiness and

Karthik Chidambaram: Yeah. Having a sense of purpose, like you rightly said,
right. So, hey, you get driven by purpose. And also another thing I find
helpful is maybe even having an executive coach. Okay. You talk about
therapy a little bit, but yeah, so having an executive coach might also be
helpful. So, hey, you can just bounce off ideas and get feedback.

Mark Dancer: Yeah, I guess you could use PI, which is a verbal oriented AI,
right. And, and talk to PI every day, but, you know, for me, artificial
intelligence, right, said now, at least in that sort of large language model
kind of thing. I know it does really great things elsewhere, but it's kind
of like a junior consultant, you know, it really wants to help and it's kind
of earnest, but it isn't human yet, so you need a real human to help you.

Karthik Chidambaram: So Mark, now it's your turn, right? So what question
would you like us to ask our next guest?

Mark Dancer: Well, I have a question, and I would love it if you would ask
this because I'm thinking about this, making this question I'm going to
share with you, kind of like an innovation challenge almost, or it's a
question I'm going to try to answer in a lot of my additions, a lot of my
conversations over the next year, right?

And that question is- If you, as a business person or an innovator, whoever
you are, whatever industry, if you could access the vast store of data,
which is in the supply chain from one end to the other globally, from a
manufacturer to a customer, to all the intermediaries, they all have data.
It's about how business is done, right?

If you could access that data, how would you use it? To create social impact
and economic development, right? So by social impact, I mean, things like
electrification, wellness, you know, solving the obesity and drug epidemic
we have helping, helping skilled workers survive and thrive and economic

I mean, in the community that you serve, how do you help it grow and
prosper? Right. So I, this is a really big question and I've kind of, I want
to really ask it. In distribution, the supply chain, but also outside
because I would like people that are maybe in policy positions and
government positions, other industries, but not distribution, social impact
organizations, which are the not the data works right the The pro the

I'd like them to say all that information is there. It's great for
commercial reasons, buying and selling stuff. But if the supply chain is
going to be worthy of our times, it could also help us grow our economies
and develop our societies. So that's my question. How can we use the vast
store of data in the supply chain and wish list to create social impact and
economic development?

Karthik Chidambaram: Yeah, how can you harness data for social impact and
economic development? A great question, Mark.

Mark, I would like to end with this question. So, what book are you reading
right now?

Mark Dancer: Can I give you two? You can probably tell I'm being challenged
on short answers. I'm reading two books.

One is called Two Like the Lightning, right? That is by the author is Ada
Palmer. She's a professor at the University of Chicago, a historian. She
writes about the Enlightenment. She writes about Vikings, Viking mysticism
in her professional life. And then she writes sci-fi and fantasy books. I
heard about her on another great podcast, Conversations with Tyler.

So I'm going to read that just because I heard her talk. I was fascinated by
the things she said. It's fiction. I don't read enough fiction. The other
book I'm reading is The Creative Act, A Way of Being. So I'm trying to be a
writer. And then writers or artists, writers or creative. And this is by
Rick Rubin, who is a very famous musical producer, starting with rap.

He also does Adele and Johnny Cash and, and, and so many others. And he has
a podcast called Tetragrammaton, right? But his book is about, it's very
easy reads, very, you can pick it up, put it down and come back to it. It's
about how to, it's, we can, it's we can all could be creators. Creators is
just not the province of whatever an artist is.

So, I'm going to read fiction and I'm going to try to be an artist. Those
are my two books.

Karthik Chidambaram: That's awesome. I love that.

And it's been a while since I read books in my mother tongue, which is
Tamil. So this is the book I'm reading, you know, so it's actually a book
called Arthamulla Hindu Matham, you know, it just talks about Hinduism and
how can you apply the facts of Hinduism in your daily life.

It's written by a great writer called Kannadasan. He's no more, but I think,
you know, it was about 10 volumes and I'm in the third volume right now.
It's an interesting read. But also kind of helps me get back to my roots a
little bit. So, yeah-

Mark Dancer: I’d, you know, I'd love to chat with you somehow about that.

You know, I also look at Stanford's human centered artificial intelligence,
and I read the founders or co founders book. Feifei Li, her book about her
journey through AI. Because I think that you know, we need distributors in,
especially, can lead the way towards human centered artificial intelligence
and spiritualism and understanding different fates as part of that.

So I've been doing some investigations, some readings about that. I know
very little about it, but if you'd like to chat about it sometime, I'd be
more than happy to do that.

Karthik Chidambaram: Yeah, I would love that. Mark.

Mark I just want to say a big thank you. So thank you so much for your time.
You were very, very generous with your learnings. You shared a lot of great

Like I started this conversation, you know, when you surround yourself with
very smart people, you get a little more smarter. That's how I feel today.
Right. So I really, I feel a little more smarter chatting with you.

Thanks for sharing a lot of learnings. You know, you shared a lot of great
names, a lot of great podcast references, a lot of great writers, and you
also shared some of your secrets of how to be a writer.

I really enjoyed this conversation. Thank you so much for joining us Mark,
and thanks for joining the DCKAP’s Driven Podcast.

Mark Dancer: Thank you. I was happy to be here and I appreciate all the kind
words and big thoughts you had for me. Thank you.

Karthik Chidambaram: Thank you, Mark.

And one more thing, if you have not subscribed to the Driven Podcast please
click the subscribe button. Thank you everyone for joining. It was a great
conversation with Mark Dancer. Thank you.

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Episode 53