Monday, March 21, 2011

How's Beethoven's 5th similar to an iPod?

I don't think that there will be anyone over the age of 5 who would not recognize these two and a half bars of music when they hear them. The immortal Beethoven's 5th Symphony. For those of you who need some recollection, here it is (before we progress any further) conducted by spectacular Gustavo Dudamel:

When I got a home assignment to listen to Beethoven's 5th for the next class in our Connections & Inflections Course (can you believe that title is for real?!?!), amusement was too mild of a word to describe my feelings. Listening to music over the MBA course is a luxury one can hardly afford, leaving alone doing that for a grade. The following class was about innovation: how companies innovate, what is innovation exactly, can we agree on a common definition of innovation, etc., and the professor introduced this whole topic by comparing Beethoven's 5th with Mozart's 38, 39, 40, 41 and Haydn's 79, 80. They are similar in their form, but so radically different in composition. The classical sonata form is preserved:
... but the whole piece is so much more economical, shorter, contained... The first 3 bars is not a melody at all, it is rather a gesture - a gesture that gets repeated regularly throughout the entire piece - Beethoven never lets go: it's an experience of rhythm and we are manipulated by it.

So what made Beethoven break off the tradition set by the father of symphony (Haydn) and continued by the genius of Mozart? We claim that it is an example of disruptive innovation: finding a new way and deviating from the establishment. The language of Mozart and Haydn was exhausted and novelty was called for, even though this novelty came in the same old sonata form.

This is where the most interesting part comes: the iPod. Coming in the same old form of a cell phone, it has a totally new look and feel inside and largely performs a different function. It is another example of disruptive innovation (as contrasted to incremental innovation).

Humans cannot grow constantly: there is a limit to our development - is it the same for organizations? What model is most appropriate to describe innovation? We discussed the Sequoia Model: you must grow as high and as quickly as possible and stop once you are above everyone else in order to survive and reproduce. You cannot be too low, otherwise you won't get enough sunlight and attention; you cannot be too high, as there are dangers of breaking down or being hit by a lightening. So basically growth is locked in its essence - only organic and natural growth is good for you. Think how many companies "grew" themselves into oblivion...

Yet... tumor is also a growth, no?

No comments:

Post a Comment


Related Posts with Thumbnails