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Lessons from the innovators

This Saturday night there was nothing worth watching on TV, so my husband and I watched a programme he'd recorded a while before. And I'm glad we did.

Shiny records on a pink wall
Image: Jason Leung, Unsplash

It was about Tears for Fears, the 1980s pop group. Lesson one: you never know what you'll learn in all sorts of places.

Lesson two: innovation is a collective activity. Do you remember the world-wide smash hit

It started with one Tears for Fears member strumming two notes. (They're the two notes at the start of the song.) Then his partner built on it. Then the sound engineers and producers got involved. Then they wrote the words. The song iterated and evolved with a large number of people playing their part. Individual genius - no.

A team effort - most definitely. That's how innovation happens.

Lesson three: Tears for Fears' record company wanted them to produce a 'drive-time' song. What's that?they asked. A song people in the US will listen, and sing along, to while trying to look cool driving along with their elbow out of the window. In other words the innovation had to have a commerial edge. And it did. The song topped the US Billboard Hot 100 in the US and spent six weeks in the UK's top five.


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