Jimi Hendrix is still considered to be one of the greatest guitar players in the world, more than 40 years after his premature death at the same age as Amy Winehouse. Plenty of guitarists have surpassed Hendrix in sheer technical dexterity, but most people point towards Hendrix’s ‘attitude’ towards the instrument as the source of his genius rather than his technical skill per se. In my own case, my life was never the same after I saved up the money to buy a copy of his hit single ‘Purple Haze’, which I still own. We even staged a re-enactment of Hendrix’s famous guitar burning stunt at a University in Cambridge with a bunch of MBA students some years back. Here’s the record and the result of the spontaneous combustion of my Fender guitar:
Check out the real deal from Hendrix’s 1967 performance of ‘Wild Thing’ at Monterey:
Jimi Hendrix is an archetype of what psychologist Professor Michael Kirton would call an innovator, someone who fused together musical ideas to come up with something totally novel. Jimi Hendrix fused the blues with soul, funk, hard rock and psychedelia in a heady cocktail, whereas many musicians stay within a musical genre. In doing so, it could be said that he lost some of his audience in the process, if you were to take a very critical view of his work. See also my post on Prince in this respect.
So what about Eric Clapton then? Let’s take a look at some of Clapton’s classic work in the form of some blues mastery with Buddy Guy:
Generally speaking, Eric Clapton has stayed within the blues genre, (with the exception of a few ballads for the ladies :-) ) sticking closer to this genre and consequentially bringing it to a wider audience. This is the behaviour of what Professor Kirton calls an adaptor. In business, adaptors often have greater success than innovators, as they tend to produce ideas that are less challenging and which are recognised by consumers in the marketplace as being a logical build on existing ideas. It’s the new saying “familiarity breeds repeat purchases”.
Often we need both innovators and adaptors to produce sustainable innovations. The innovators to produce the hard to copy ideas and the adaptors to help bring the ideas into a practical market focus.
In business, examples of innovators include Sir Clive Sinclair, Sir Trevor Baylis and James Dyson whose innovations have not always been in tune with market desire, for example Dyson’s early attempts to redesign the wheelbarrow:
Archetypal adaptors would include Bill Gates and Warren Buffet and possibly Sir Richard Branson, who have succeeded by taking relatively low risks with product and service innovation.
Finally, let’s hear another musical boundary crosser / innovator talking about Hendrix, none other than Jeff Beck:
To read about others who have been greatly influenced by Jimi Hendrix, see my post on my night in a pub with Bernie Torme, lead guitarist extraordinaire for Ozzy Osbourne, Ian Gillan and Twisted Sister. Also the music genius Bill Nelson, who has innovated continuously for 40 years in music, whilst shunning the music industry circus.
If you like this mini blog on Hendrix check out our new book ‘The Music of Business”, which has an expanded article on Jimi and much, much more – acclaimed by Harvey Goldsmith. Sample it here:
About the Blogger: Peter Cook leads The Academy of Rock – Keynote events with a difference and Human Dynamics – Business and organisation development, training and coaching. Contact via firstname.lastname@example.org