Another one bites the dust

I have been trying to make sense of how innovation happens in relation to Knowledge Management and which ideas are most likely to succeed and I saw one of the key reasons in the Queen ‘Days of our lives‘ documentary shown on BBC recently.

Discussing how songs were written and produced band members Roger Taylor and Brian May explained how each member would write a basic idea for a song and present it to the group. Competition between members was obvious, so often the best way to get your idea through was to start making it yourself. This eventually resulted in the band members being in separate studios working on their individual ideas and only inviting other members in when their part was needed to be added.

A great example of this was ‘another one bites the dust’, written by John Deacon with an aim to become more disco oriented (having hung around and been influenced by Chic in their studio. Roger Taylor hated it and reluctantly tried his hand at the disco drum beat required. Deacon had to do most of the song development and production alone, bringing the almost completed track to the band. This was an innovative step for Queen as it was disco and not their tried and tested Pop/Rock orientation.

Another one bites the dust‘ opened up radically new markets for the band and was a worldwide hit, number one in the US and Queen’s best selling single.

The lessons from this story.

In order to progress, an idea must have a passionate owner/parent that will swim against the current, protecting and fending off supporters of the status quo (not the band, although Status Quo are a good example of a band that rarely made the innovative leap , preferring a good old incremental step everytime) in order to give their newborn innovative idea a fighting chance of survival.

I revisited my De Bono ‘Lateral thinking for Management‘ to find that he was fully aware of this need back in 1971 as he says that an innovative idea requires protection because:

an idea might be rejected when judged within the old frame of reference. If you hold onto the idea a new frame of reference might come about.

The nonsense aspects of the idea may yet trigger useful ideas

an intermediate stage may seem to be impossible

It may not make any sense at first, but if allowed to develop it will solidify and collect support until it does make sense in its own right. (this in itself is a great pre-curser to the idea of complex attractors)

You must temporarily drop your ‘rejection’ attitude and pay attention to the useful points instead of the weaker points (although I suspect Roger Taylors lack of support and enthusiasm made Roger Deacon more determined to succeed).

This to me suggests the great importance of creating the space and triggers for innovation which we do at Argenta with our ‘innovation boosters’ but then the equally important provision of a protected safe environment to nurture and grow the solution until it is strong enough to survive on its own merits or perhaps change/tilt the playing field in its favour.




  1. The dynamics of rock groups are fascinating.

    Some are led by visionaries who carry the other members along with them. Individual members can be expendable and unless that turnover is harnessed to fuel the overall creativity (eg. The Waterboys), these bands seem to fall apart quite quickly.

    In some groups, the ambitions and emerging talents of the other members can lead to friction, while positively influencing the work (eg. The Beatles, maybe not The Police).

    And some collaborate to the extent decisions are made by committee, in which case it seems harder to sustain the quality of output.

    Plenty of retrospective coherence I’m sure – and every group has a story.

    The constants I see are trust – enough to be honest with each other when discussing output quality – and the importance of external collaborators (managers, producers in the studio and production designers live, supportive A&R) who step back, understand the group’s strengths and help it direct its efforts to be most effective. Some understanding of the prevailing market doesn’t hurt.

    Thinking of the artist as a product designer, we could have a lot of fun comparing different enterprises to the music business. Someone’s probably done it already.

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