The Connection Between Open Innovation Culture and the Beatles

Posted by jartese on Oct 9, 2013 8:42:58 PM

How do we tie the discussion of innovative culture in with that of the Beatles? Ridiculous right?  For one the Beatles were innovative musicians and songwriters, developing music that influences the way people do things to this day.  Going deeper to find the connection we encounter open innovation. This form of innovation requires collaboration, cross-team interaction, looking to outside sources for solutions, and using methods or technologies outside of your team or company.

When someone mentions "innovation culture", they hardly turn their minds to February 7, 1964, when a certain mop-topped quartet disembarked at New York's recently re-named John F. Kennedy Airport. Even the Beatles themselves probably would not have thought of themselves as being part anything other than the rock 'n roll culture. The Beatles, however, did more than just sell records. Their innovative techniques turned the music industry upside-down and inside-out simply by trying what had never been done.

There are always trepidations when trying something new. In an interview on that flight, Paul McCartney remarked, "They've got their own groups. What are we going to give them that they don't already have?" One can chuckle and agree with Sir Paul. After all, the parents of teenagers already had headaches. They still do.

What the Beatles had was an innovative spirit. Chord progressions in popular music had fallen into predictable patterns. The music industry thought they had a "formula" where if a song became popular, you could just re-use the melody and change the words (compare Danny & the Juniors "At the Hop" with their "Rock and Roll Is Here to Stay"). Cute, catchy little lyrics were easily memorized and then just as easily forgotten. The "hit factories" churned out their manufactured pop idols, it was a formula built on taking advantage of best practices.

Even the music was categorized into neat little departments. Rock and Roll had a formula. Country-Western had a formula. Rhythm and Blues had a formula. Every now and then someone like the Everly Brothers would come along and seem to defy categories, showing up in both the Rock and Country lists, but they were easily tapped into place.

The Beatles borrowed shamelessly from everywhere and anywhere. Bob Dylan and Elvis Presley, artists with two radically different styles, were major influences, and they combined elements from the genre-defining King of Rock with the bluesier and more folksy Dylan. Mixing it up with their own style, they hit upon a sound that would catapult them to musical immortality.

The Beatles innovated more than just the combining of clearly-defined musical styles. They also brought in arrangements and instruments that just weren't used in Rock. The cornet is not a rock instrument, yet they made it the defining sound in "Penny Lane". Sitars and other exotic instruments became fodder for their imaginations in ways that would have destroyed the careers of less-bold artists. "Eleanor Rigby" used another decidedly "not-rock" element, a double string quartet. It also veered from the accepted norms of rock music by addressing the neglected concerns of the elderly.

The fame of the Beatles needs hardly be mentioned. Their innovative approach to music has left an indelible mark as artists dare to challenge the trends and established parameters. Businesses also need to question the status quo…the "we've always done it this way" mindset. Some are always on the lookout for the "next big thing". The innovators, however, will be the ones making the next big thing. They will be the ones who take advantage of existing technologies across teams and companies and countries. They will take a chance and create new elements by seeking out the people who can come up with the solutions that are the most innovative no matter where. Like the Beatles, they will dare to do what has not been done. The question now is how this open innovation culture go mainstream in a world of best practices.


Topics: Innovation Insights

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