We can learn a lot about innovation from David Bowie. I’m not kidding. The Victoria and Albert Museum in London, affectionately known as the V&A is curating the exhibit from compiled from the five decade career of David Bowie. It has a focus on exploring the creative processes of a cultural innovator and icon.
The show sold nearly 50,000 tickets BEFORE it opened. Bowie is a man who famously pushed cultural norms in the 1960’s. I ask you to take a moment to consider what pushing the norms in the Sixties often remembered for Woodstock and for extreme deviations from the norm (a bit of cultural and statistical humor in case you missed it with extreme deviations in both being a rarity). Then continuing to push the “norm” for the next 50 years gives Bowie status as an innovator.
I will tell you without having had the pleasure of viewing the exhibit (yet), that this kind of profound innovation takes a process. Some of the items they are exhibiting are diary notes and storyboards, which were part of his Innovation Process. If you have an innovation process, maybe you should chuck-it and start over Bowie-style. Some things that might be included in the new process are:
• Willingness to change the conversation. In an era where authenticity in music was embraced he changed the conversation to fantasy and created an experiential performance. This literally challenged the core belief system of what rock n roll was in Sixties.
• Forget about anything that is currently known (as we say at Mindspot Research – forget the box!)
• Permission to look beyond what is currently possible. The creation of Ziggy Stardust, his androgynous, flamboyant alter ego, case and point.
• Capacity to destroy what you create. Bowie created this fantastical persona of Ziggy Stardust and at the height of his creation he held a funeral for him and destroyed his creation. This allowed the possibility of the next creation.
• Ability to rise from the ashes as something new. His hit Album Young Americans rose with the song Fame reaching number one on the charts.
• Endurance to do it again. Let’s Dance.
Surprise your boss with a field trip to the V&A to see the exhibit (now through August 11, 2013) and re-invent your innovation process. Your inspiration doesn’t need to come from a business book…and perhaps, it shouldn’t.
by Lynnette Leathers CEO of Mindspot Research, a division of Mindspot, Inc.