Last week saw the 50th anniversary of the recording of The Beatles first album “Please, Please Me”. This caused me to go out and play a version of “Blue Jay Way” from “The Magical Mystery Tour” as a rather unusual contribution to a 50th anniversary night on the Fab Four. It also set me thinking about the enduring legacy of The Beatles music as compared with the long tail of one hit wonders that typify the music business. Given that businesses rarely last 50 days let alone 50 years, it also made me think about some comparisons with businesses that have longevity. Thankfully, my own business has lasted 18 years.
Perhaps one single fact that we learn in business from the example of The Beatles is that managers (and people in general) are rather bad at foresight. After recording fifteen tracks for Decca records, the group were told that “guitar groups are on their way out” and “the Beatles have no future in show business.” Decca instead chose a group called the Tremoloes, who were local and would not cost as much money. In business, Sony missed the digital revolution probably because they had a record company. The question for the smart leader is:
“What long range future trends are we about to miss, because of our investment in the present and the past?”
The Beatles flexed musical styles within the context of pop music and broke many boundaries of what could be considered to be pop music at the time. We can hear their influence in ELO, some of Prince’s orchestrated work, Oasis, Kurt Cobain, Siouxsie and The Banshees, Paul Weller, Blur and so on. Perhaps this has ultimately helped them maintain longevity, as others have built their music on the ‘safe scaffolding’ of what they did. It probably also helped that they stopped making records before sliding inexorably down the other side of their ‘innovation S curve’.
The challenge to modern businesses, leaders and entrepreneurs is to change what you are doing even when there is apparently no need to do so, at the top of your ‘S Curve’. The question for the smart leader is:
“Where are you on your S Curve?”
What other business lessons can we learn from The Beatles? Post your thoughts here.
To learn more about The Beatles and Creativity in Business, try my new online learning programme “The Music of Business”. Claim a 50% discount voucher (7+ hours of top quality learning for just $65 instead of $125) HERE. Read all about it here:
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We leave with the title of this blog and a video I made for the online programme on the creativity contribution from The Beatles: