Did I mention I was speaking at Dots in Brighton? Neil (who is curating) has a look at the whole line up here. Even better, I can offer a few time-limited reduced price tickets if you are one of the first five to use the discount code ‘Tom’ when booking online. See you you there for a lovely, lively and interesting day by the sea.
We constantly hear about how innovative musicians have become. The labels are wankers, dinosaurs, out of touch, unable to adapt their business model: their days are numbered.
Well now it seems that the artists are wankers too. In this article from HBR, we find that the very darlings of the MySpace revolution, Linkin Park – a band which launched its own innovation business in 1999 and managed to build direct relationships with millions of fans etc etc – are once again turning the innovation knob (up to 11).
But this time it’s all in management doublespeak. in 2014, we learn, the band decided they needed a ‘paradigm shift’. Its executive vice president decided that there was plenty of “blue ocean” for them to explore.
Let’s hear from the band themselves:
As co-lead vocalist and founder Mike Shinoda puts it, “Our goal was to build an internal team of diverse talent to support the non-traditional endeavors the band plans to pursue in the coming years.” The move allowed us to venture freely into diversified revenue models to complement our music sales. Our business now operates like a tech startup, with less hierarchy and far more agility.
I don’t know about you but when I was a kid I really wanted to be in a rock group… With a diversified revenue model – so cool!
As the article goes on, I personally had to cough back a little vomit as I found out about the need to build a ‘differentiated brand ecosystem’ and, even better, to ‘dissected the Linkin Park ecosystem and architecte a framework to execute our new long-term vision’.
Possibly the best bit of innovation non-sense is when it is decided that the band should use ‘creative content to communicate our brand’s point-of-view.’ Perhaps they could play some songs and dance?
As you read on, you occasionally check to see that the URL hasn’t switched to The Onion. Rock musicians talking like management consultants is not on the list of things that makes the world a better place. But don’t worry,
To be clear, we are still in the music business, but creating and selling music now plays more of a supporting role in our overall business mix.
I’ll be talking at the brilliant Brilliant Noise Dots conference in September. Tickets are available here. There are still some early bird tickets available if you’re quick.
We’ve been lucky enough to have Hugh MacLeod provide the illustrations for the book, and damn fine they are too. I won’t ruin that surprise.
However, I was reminded this morning of just how close in thinking much of Tom Fishburne’s work is. As an innovator in a big business, we know many clients can feel like this:
Start managing innovation the same way you manage media budgets and the Christmas party, and you can guarantee the sort of brutal attack Fishburne envisages will come about. If you try and make yours just another project, you can be sure it will be managed like one – which doesn’t work for doing new things.
The only way to fight the opinions of those more senior, or disruptive, is facts. And the innovator must dedicate themselves to finding the real facts at the heart of their business idea.
What Fishburne doesn’t allude to in his fantastic cartoons is just why the nurtured idea is about to be exposed to the knives and barbs or colleagues.
And the answer here is simple: money.
If you can run your innovation effort out of petty cash, no-one will ask those question or take a swipe at you. It’s when large outlays are required, and more importantly, grand projections made that critics will circle.
Prove them wrong, and do it on a budget.
But that’s not to say that your don’t want criticism. Exactly the opposite, you should seek it out. And be your own worst critic.
All too often the adversarial process of getting and keeping budgets can convince the innovator to be bloody minded in the pursuit of their original concept. Keeping your idea away from the most sectarian and political forces may be wise, but never shelter an idea from criticism entirely. This is how your idea will grow. We’ve seen over and over again, that ideas which only ever get praised, rarely get any better, or indeed see much success.
A final Fishburne
What we’re saying is see the teeth in the picture above as your friend. If you are tough (not pointlessly critical) as you progress thorough every stage of assessment of the idea and build of the proposition, the process will make you (and your idea) stronger.
My favourite joke. Peter Cook and Dudley Moore.
Moore says: “I’m writing a book”, Cook replies: “Really? Neither am I.”
I’ve written a book on innovation. There, I’ve said it. And if there’s something more commonplace, less innovative than books on innovation, it must be blog posts about how bloody hard it is to write a book.
But I don’t care.
I’ve got to tell you, I didn’t believe it. I thought that it might well be the case for other people but I would take to it just fine. I’ve always liked writing. I know how to use Word, and I absolutely knew what I wanted it to say.
But it was hell. I started it in 2013. I wasn’t 40 when I started. I had a different job. And now its almost finished. Its had the gestation period of an Elephant. If it went on much longer, it would have had the lifespan of a government IT project.
I’ve loved it as well. Not only do I understand now why everyone told me how hard it would be but also why they told me I should do it anyway.
It’s got a big chunk of the story of Fluxx in it, Hugh McLeod has done the cover, and I very much hope that I’ll be able to interest at least a couple of you in reading it when it is on Amazon early next year and we launch it at Fluxx at the start of 2015.
And yes, that’s why there hasn’t been any blogs.
So. Why did we write the book, Unthinkable?
The truth is that the thinking that got us to write the book is just the same as the reason the partners started the agency, Fluxx, back in 2011.
We knew from years of working with companies on new things that often the most exciting ideas and challenges were prone to end up the most disappointing failures. We knew too the reality of such missed opportunities was not of innovation teams overcome with the technical or consumer challenge but rather battling against the forces of their own business.
We recognised the need to find new ways to operate to enable the largest businesses to forget their pasts and truly embrace completely new things.
For us to get stuff done in large companies, we must spend as little money as possible, tangle with as few of these sectarian forces as we can and get output as early as possible.
We must move the game from predictive project and management thinking to foster learning and facts over bluster, confidence and unfounded optimism of macho management.
Unthinkable will be published in the first half of 2015. Sign up for our newsletter (right or below) if you would like to learn more. Contact me if you’d like to tell me your stories of getting stuff done in large enterprises.