Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Top 3 Things Popular Music can teach us about Collaborative Innovation.

This might have been better titled, What does Clayton Christensen and Christina Aguilera have in common?”

You might think the world of popular music would consistently be a hotbed of innovation, but if you look at the last century and the start of this one, you’ll note innovation is slow to creep into the field.  Like the commercial world we live in, it appears only mostly recently that innovation has driven new results.  

Old School vs. Young Bloods
Just like those of us who embrace collaborative innovation in the commercial world, those in the music world can also confront indifference to change.  Let’s contrast the work of Frank Sinatra and Christina Aguilera.

First off, I love Frank Sinatra music.  I saw him in concert.  I even shook his hand.  But the only innovative moment in his career was at the beginning.  Frank’s popularity occurred when he was part of a phenomenon where band singers become more important than the band.  

As his career took off he sang the American Songbook, in other words: classics, for decades.  When he occasionally tried to sing a modern song, like “Somewhere” or “Let It Be” by the Beatles, it sounded almost painful and rang false.  When he put out a duets album late in his career, he didn’t even sing in the same room with the other performers.  They recorded their tracks in separate locations.

In contrast Christina Aguilera works hard to embrace collaborative innovation in her work.  She has been recording music since the mid ‘90’s.  Collaborative innovations have delivered a slew of benefits for her.

The music business was somewhat shocked and awed when rap music came on the scene and proved to be popular.  While some musicians were immobilized by the threat, performers like Christina took on collaborative projects incorporating rappers, and their music, into her performances.  Aguilera’s songs always list her as the performer, and then list or “feature” a rap artist.  

She has partnered with popular rappers like T.I., Lil Kim, Peaches, Nikki Minaj and Pit Bull.  She collaborated with Blake Shelton to cross over to the Country and Western market.  She sang with superstars Maroon 5, Cee Lo Green & Pink to tap into the newer audiences they generated and into these newer artists’s popularity.  Aguilera was smart enough to appear on the television show The Voice to embrace collaborative innovation in another medium and get exposure to new audiences.

Whos Watching by Jacques Maes
Three Intersections of Innovation in Business and Innovation in Music
What did she get out of this effort?  The same things we in the commercial world all want as a result of Collaborative Innovation.  Let’s look at the common ground.

1.  We all want to stay relevant.  By using collaboration to embrace innovation we get to introduce traditional offerings to new markets.  A tried and true product can get “refreshed” with the addition of a modern twist.  In both the cases of popular music and a commercial enterprise, the younger, newer participants learn from the older, more experienced players about how the system works.  The senior player has their thought processes opened up by the fresher perspective.  An old product can regain relevancy with the exposure to a new market.
2.  A big chunk of the commercial innovation world is driven by new product development.  Popular music has a constant demand to produce new works, as well.  Yes, maybe their old favorites will have an audience, but if a CPG company or a popular musician wants to retain shelf space they have to keep a pipeline of new product offerings coming.
3.  We can see combining two different perspectives can yield a whole new product.  This type of thinking led to the production of a Hybrid Car... and the insertion of a spoken word interlude within a melodious lyric.

So Collaborative Innovation is a pervasive notion spanning both commercial enterprises and popular music.   
This approach enables traditional offerings to remain relevant to an ever-changing audience.  It assembles senior players so they can share their experiences with junior participants.  Collaborating to fuel Innovation serves to open up the minds of traditionalists to modern thinking.  The realized benefits of Collaborative Innovation include the introduction of offerings never seen before.  It drives a steady stream of developed new products to a market hungry for novelty (and the next “new” thing).

Ron Shulkin blogs, researches and writes about enterprise technology focused on social media, innovation, voice of the customer, marketing automation and enterprise feedback management.  Ron Shulkin is Vice President of the Americas for CogniStreamer®, an innovation ecosystem.  CogniStreamer serves as a Knowledge Management System, Idea Management System and Social Network for Innovation.  

You can learn more about CogniStreamer here .  Ron manages The Idea Management Group on LinkedIn (Join Here). You can follow him Twitter. You can follow his blogs at this Facebook group.  You can connect with Ron on LinkedIn. You can find his CV at

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