Work Rate, Vision, Reinvention…Lessons learned from David Bowie
I’ve just spent a week on holiday, mainly chilling in the sun. I love sunbathing holidays, they always give me a chance to catch up on reading and listening and listening to music.
I seem to have been on a bit of a 70s nostalgia binge, reading Andy Beckett’s excellent social & political history of the decade ‘When The Lights Went Out’ and listening to a lot of old Bowie albums – you may have gathered that he’s a bit of a favourite from this blog – both studio and live.
Sometimes it’s easy to forget how hard artists worked then to build their fan base and connect with their audiences, with none of the modern communication platforms that we have to facilitate building a following and keeping them engaged.
Three things stood out for me about Bowie…and they provide lessons that are quite relevant for our more knowing current times.
Seems hard to believe now, but in the 70s Bowie released 11 studio albums and 3 live albums in the space of NINE years…seems incredible (as a comparison, U2 have released 12 studio albums in 30 years) not even counting the world tours that accompanied most of them! Such a work rate certainly inspired devotion in a legion of fans.
We all work hard at what we do…but what do we achieve? How much of what we do in HR and Recruiting is visible to our client groups, candidates, directors and managers? I am not looking to advocate work for work’s sake…or just keeping busy to look good…but focused output, using our efforts to create real and meaningful outcomes.
The range and quality of Bowie’s albums really connected with fans…how much of what we do really connects with those people around us.
There’s little doubt that Bowie looked forward rather than back. From glam to electric soul to avant garde electronics he was usually ahead of the curve…often drawing other bands with him. Whilst most of his peers created a sound and stayed with it, he was restless in his quest for change, development, innovation and creativity. He had a knack for being able to see future trends.
How many of us can say that? Seriously? In both HR and Recruitment the penny is now dropping with a vast majority that yes, social media is going to have a major impact on how we do things. Suddenly the race is on to understand it, use it and create policies for our people…but are we playing catch up with those who could see the potential?
Why so long? Maybe we spend too much time trying to do the same things differently, rather than looking to see what new and different things we could do both now and in the future.
Listen to the 4 live albums that cover the period 72 to 78 (a fourth was released recently) and you will hear not only complete changes in style and performance, but also in interpretation. Some songs appear on all 4 albums but sound different each time, being re-interpreted and re-cast into a new style.
Do we reinvent what we have done? If we create a new policy or process do we look back and see which other policies and processes could be re-interpreted? Do we rest on our back catalogue without looking at how it could be improved or revised to suit different circumstances?
Bowie’s restless work rate, vision and re-invention kept him relevant for many years…he’s still cited as a major influence by new bands over 30 years later.
Maybe it’s time we used some of his inspiration to keep our clients connected and engaged.