Thursday, May 25, 2017

Creative Headspace: What Innovation and Music Have in Common.

Creative Headspace: An FEI 17 Keynote
Panos Panay, Berklee College of Music

“Four stories of a record store now fit into our pockets,” the talk begins. 

“Today you can make music without playing music. You can make music without knowing music. You can make music even if you are not human.”

The way we discover and consume music is changing. Predicative analytics and diagnostic tools will be able to read our moods “and provide the right soundtrack for that moment in your life,” adds Panay.

Panos coaches musicians to be entrepreneurial at Berklee. As part of this post, he reached out to the at Stanford. Here’s what he learned, “the processes of innovation and music making are fundamentally the same, both are acts of creation.”

There are mindsets—“what we call head spaces”—that are applicable to their own career journeys.

The first one: Listening. You have to learn to listen deeply. This is the most important instinct to cultivate.

Second: Collaboration. Music is the process that brings different people and forces together into something larger than the individuals, a synthesis.

Third: Timing. Timing is critical in both music and for corporate innovation.

Fourth: Imitating. How can we draw inspiration from the past? A deep understanding of what preceded you is a great asset.

Fifth: Fusing. Fusing two things from different worlds and applying them together creates novelty.

Sixth: Captivating. This is a key aspect of storytelling. “Steve Jobs unveiling the iPhone is a lot like Freddy Mercury at Live Aid.” Captivating an audience cuts through the mental chatter. Audience and performer become one in this alchemical process.

Seventh: Failing. You learn from failure. The Beatles spent two years in Hamburg, which was a failure, other than giving them time to practice and refine their act. The experience was formative and instructive. The process leads to good outcomes. No one wins without in depth failure and practice.

Eight: Reinventing. How many Bob Dylans has the world known? The folk singer. The irreverent rocker. The confessional singer. Religious artist. The crooner. Constant reinvention is key for keeping things fresh.

So, can a bunch of musicians innovate outside of music? “About a year ago we kicked off a project that tracks rights and ownership rights of music using these methods.” If there is a singular way to collect where music is played, it changes the way musicians make money.

Working with IDEO, the school of music created the Open Music Summer Lab. One work stream worked on capturing good information, good data. A second work stream focused on consumer experiences based on that data.

“We took a team that had very diverse skill sets and ran them through a design thinking process. In three weeks they came up with 12 concepts.” Also, they learned how their skills are transferable, allowing them to pivot intelligently.

Michael Graber is the managing partner of the Southern Growth Studio, an insight, innovation, and strategy firm based in Memphis, TN, and the author of Going Electric. Visit

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