Last night, I went to see a concert, a string quartet.
I knew none of the works on the programme, but it was a quartet of international stature, and live classical music is something I like, so I was delighted to have been invited.
We enter the hall, and the musicians come in. Its all evening dresses, dark suits and antique instruments. So far, so good, I thought.
They start playing. An original, world premiere original composition.
It is modern. It is chaos. It is terrible.
Except, it isn’t so terrible, once you begin to listen. There is order, but it is hidden away under the discords. There is harmony, but it isn’t the harmony you expect, so you don’t hear it.
In particular, there is extraordinary skill in the musicians. The whole thing sounds like a mess, but every bow is going the same direction. The timing of each note is perfect. The silences between the notes precise.
In short, though I didn’t like the composition one bit, the artistry with which it was executed was flawless.
I was so impressed.
And then I realised something.
My reaction to this music is probably little different to the reaction that conservatives have when confronted by corporate innovators.
Their minds, trained for years in accepting things in a certain way, find the new stuff modern. Chaotic. Terrible.
And, because they’ve not had much practice in accepting new things, it is probably unrealistic to imagine they’ll see the competence and artistry that underlies decent innovation execution.
I know, because my brain was off for about half the performance because I disliked the content. Interval came and went before I pushed myself into seeing beyond.
At the end, I left wondering why I hadn’t realised all this before.
Non-innovators never see beyond the content. So they never know what it took to create it, or what the bigger design may be.
Leaving the hall, I got to listen to some of the audience. Most of them were waxing lyrical about the magic of the performance. I didn’t think it was so magic, myself, but then something else dawned on me: the audience was almost entirely comprised of musical intelligencia. Highly educated, completely familiar with the modern style, probably musicians themselves.
They admired not only the technical competence of the musicians but the composition as well.
I was left wondering if you had to be a musican to appreciate this kind of music.
I conclude you probably do, and the same is likely true for innovators too.
Only innovators care about innovators for their content as well as their execution.
One final reveleation came to me in the taxi home. I probably wouln’t choose to listen to such a concert again. Though I admired what I saw, it just wasn’t my cup of tea.
Despite everything, despite caring deeply about doing new stuff professionally, given the chance, I’d revert back to the old stuff I’ve always gone to see.
I have no doubt that conservatives, when forced into innovative behaviours, are the same. Take the innovators away, and the old stuff comes right back.
Amazing what you learn on a night out.