March 14, 2007

Their Focus Was Always a Few Yards Ahead

“They wanted to be bigger than Elvis. But their focus was always a few yards ahead.”

This is a quote by Greg Clydesdale, who researched the success of The Beatles. This quote reminds of the importance of focusing on continuous improvement by constantly concentrating on a clear goal in the near future. The research by Clydesdale also covers another interesting theme: competitive innovation. Competition was important in two ways. First, as a band, The Beatles competed against other groups:
"As an example, he cites the Beatles’ desire to outdo their contemporaries, particularly the Beach Boys. “When the Beatles first heard – and analysed – the Beach Boys’ album Pet Sounds, they asked their manager George Martin if they could do as well. He told them they could do better. The Beatles’ response was to produce Sergeant Pepper.”

Second, there was competition within the group:
"He says the rivalry between John Lennon and Paul McCartney was also an important factor and supports earlier research suggesting competition and cooperation can be intertwined. He quotes McCartney as saying: “He'd write ‘Strawberry Fields’ and I’d go away and write ‘Penny Lane’”. Dr Clydesdale says the rivalry was friendly, largely because the rewards were shared: “The whole group benefitted from performing an excellent song. And regardless of which one wrote it, the song went down as a ‘Lennon and McCartney’ composition.”

This seems like a sound analysis. Like this, to me it sounds like co-operation through competition. How may this be applicable in organizations?

1 comment:

  1. Great point about John & Paul each profiting from the other's success. It kept the competition managable - until the last few years of their partnership, when other dynamics disrupted it. This translates nicely to to large organizational settings where individuals/teams are competing with each other within a company - which hopefully improves innovation, productivity, profitability, etc.


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