Thursday, 14 July 2016

Lessons from Wagner about innovation: 7. spread memes of style and flavour

Wagner's music blended into and spread easily within people's surroundings and everyday existence. It was broken down into short digestible snippets and arranged for popular bands and ensembles, making it suitable for performances at the popular events woven into the social fabric of people's lives. It was flexibly packaged so it could be performed with or without singers, making it easy to include within a broad range of concert programmes.

As a result of all this, much of the original context, meaning and power of Wagner's music was inevitably lost. It became detached from its artistic roots and floated into people's minds to anchor and settle with whatever notions and perceptions it found there.

But the advantages of this process far outweighed the disadvantages. Over time, these insistent snippets or 'memes' of musical style and flavour insinuated themselves into people's thoughts and awareness. They then awaited the opportunity (perhaps a local premier of one of Wagner's complete operas) to ignite people's curiosity and enthusiasm and generate the power to launch into yet more minds and lives.

As Wagner's 'memes of style and flavour' demonstrate, strong ideas will not only survive the process of fragmentation and distortion but also significantly benefit from it. Do not worry unduly if your ideas are sliced, diced and variously 'adjusted to fit' within people's lives. The odds are that the seeds of your idea's future success are being sown far and wide.

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