Monday, June 2, 2008

Gladwell on Innovation

Gladwell began his presentation by discussing Art! Specifically, he talked about Cezanne and Picasso. Their greatest came about in very different in a ways and teaches about the human potential. Their are two types of innovators according to Gladwell:

Experimental Innovators - Cezanne - He had no bold ideas.. All of his mastery is done through doing and failing and redoing. He slowly worked over time to enhance his skills to become a master - we call these late bloomers. As an example, a piece done by Cezanne late in his life is worth far more than something he did early in his career.

Conceptual Innovators - Picasso - Precocious and radical thinker.. he brought radical notions on modern art to the world and made a name for himself overnight. Picasso's most valuable works are those he created early in this career.

There are other examples:
Mark Twain - Took nine years to write Huckle Berry Finn.. wrote in his 50s - Experimental
Melville - Wrote Moby Dick - 32 yrs old.. wrote in one year.. Conceptual

Orson Wells - Citizen Cane -Directed at age of 26 - Conceptual
Alfred Hitchock - Vertigo - directed at 59. Same genre over and over.. Experimental

Gladwell stressed that he fears that we have chosen to value the conceptual innovator more so than the experimental. We have fallen out of love with Cezanne! This has profound impact on us.

He uses the example the record industry to make the point. The album "Rumors" by Fleetwood Mac is one of the best album in the world.. but most people don't know that it took 10 years, 16 different band members moving in and out of the band and 14 albums before Fleetwood Mac had it right.. Rumos was their 16 album. In contrast the Eagles were a similar band but they were different.. Their very first album was a huge hit.. they had their greatest hits in the 1st three years of the band.

Consider this.. Fleetwood Mac makes their record label 10s of billions of dollars.. because their record label stayed with them despite all their doing and failing and redoing. Today, the record industry has given up on music artist.. Your first single is where they decide if your going to make it. They have turned their back on the kind of genius represented by Fleetwood Mac and Cezanne!

Gladwell finished by suggesting four things we need to do...

  • We need to have judgment! Think of the record executive who stayed with Fleetwood Mac
  • We need to be flexible - help leaders develop over time in different ways
  • We need to be patient - You have to wait until people are in their 50s & 60s.. to see their great work
  • We have to be prepared to help.

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