Malcolm Gladwell on Innovation

Last week (after I recorded a podcast with Malcolm) I got to hear him address an audience of ~500 people at the World Innovation Forum. This speech was not his usual The Tipping Point or Blink related speech. This was new material!

The essence of this speech was on Innovation (of course) but specifically innovators when they peaked.

Seems as if he mapped innovators like Picasso and Cezanne. And the results were remarkable. Picasso hit his peak in his 20s and never peaked again. Cezanne hit his peak much later in life – taking his time with his craft and finely honing it over years and years.

He also drew parallels to musicians such as The Grateful Dead and Fleetwood Mac. Fleetwood Mac actually had 16 albums before they had a smash hit with Rumors which was 10 years into their existence as well as several band members flowing in and out of the band before they found the right mix — they we’re Cezanne-ian when it comes to innovation!

The sad fact is that the music industry no longer gives bands this kind of time to mature. These days if you don’t have a hit record the first time out – you are cut from the label.

This can also be broadly applied to our society when it comes to the business world. Case in point, if you don’t have a business plan with a solid ROI these days (Picasso) you won’t get funded. Gone are the days of getting funding (internally) for a business plan that might create the next big thing somewhere down the road. Which means sadly we may see less Cezannes, Fleetwood Macs and Grateful Deads in our future!

1 comment to Malcolm Gladwell on Innovation

  • Wanderlust

    Hi Paul,

    Your interview and note on Innovation is simply wonderful.Thanks for info on Malcolm.

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