How Classical Is Classical?
"History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new." Ecclesiastes 1:9
One of my favorite birthday presents this year came from my daughters. (OK, my wife bought it, but the tag was from them, so they're getting the credit.) They got me a CD I'd been wanting called Wolfgang's Big Night Out by the Brian Setzer Orchestra. Imagine some of the best classical music ever written - Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Strauss - put to a swing rhythm with strong influences of blue grass and some guitar riffs that would have the head-banging-est heavy metal afficianado drooling with delight. Suffice it to say, it is one kickin' set of tunes. Wait a second... did I just refer to classical greats as a "kickin' set of tunes"???? Hmmm, I guess I did.
In organizations, we spend a lot of time arguing about what is or should be obsolete. We discuss shelf time and useful life. We talk about planned obsolescence. We tackle version control. We slay sacred cows. Roger von Oech, truly one of my favorite creative theorists, tackled this in his blog a while back:
Remember: every right idea is eventually the wrong idea.
Innovation means not only generating new ideas, but escaping from obsolete ones as well.
As you think about a current problem or issue, you might ask yourself these questions: "What assumptions should I update? What is no longer true and should be discarded? What's now possible?"
How often do we do the opposite? When do we look at things that were once useful and then tossed aside to see if we can re-create them in a new light? I enjoy classical music and appreciate it in the right context... but listening to Brian Setzer's version adds all new zest and zeal for these classics. What about in work? Instead of scanning the list of new books on the Best Seller List, go back and read some Deming or Drucker. They were pretty timeless at telling us what it would take to make an organization work really well. What "classics" can you take down off the shelf, blow the dust off, and give them a new look and feel?