22nd January 2016

David Bowie: Innovation that can’t be touched

Nicholas Lawrence

As I’m sure you’ve already heard by now, the world lost one of the greatest talents in music on January 10, 2016. It was announced the morning after that David Bowie had passed away peacefully, surrounded by his friends and family from an 18 month cancer battle. An untouchable character had left the Earth forever, but what hadn’t of left us all was the ways in which Bowie innovated throughout his career that spanned over a period of five decades. 

He will always be remembered for the constant re-invention of things either with his musical talent or his physical appearance. Ziggy Stardust with the signature red mullet and lightening thunder bolt across the forehead and cheek, his comfortability with moving from drum and bass to folk to rock to soul, his great artwork and publicized inspirations, they were all innovative. And above all of this, David Bowie said “A lot of what I am is my enthusiasms.” in his 1999 interview with Jeremy Paxman. He believed in himself. And it just goes to show that if you believe in something, and your enthusiastic about it, you’re road to success lies ahead. 

But, 21st century business and innovation is appearing from all four corners of the globe and it’s become much harder to be successful and get heard by millions like Bowie did in the 70’s. In those times, the clock was ticking for someone to come out and innovate, which was why when Bowie did – it was something. However, in today’s technology industry, things aren’t the same. Look at Apple with the iPhone for instance? Over 64% of all mobile users in the world have an iPhone! It’s so much harder for other companies like Samsung and BlackBerry to own a fair share in the market, which is why they have to think outside the box to ‘be something.’

Watch David Bowie talk about being innovative in this 1999 BBC News Night interview with Jeremy Paxman.

Remember this part of the interview?

Jeremy: “But what is it specifically about the internet? Anybody can say anything, but it all adds up to what? It seems to me that there’s nothing cohesive about it in the youth revolution in music?”

David: “Oh absolutely! And because I think that at the time, up until at least the mid 70’s, really felt that we was living under the, or within the guise of single and absolute created society where there were know truths and known lies and there was no kind of… duplicity or pluralism about the things that we believed in. That started to break down rapidly in the 70’s and the idea of a duality in the way that we live, there were always two, three, four, five sides to every question. The singularity disappeared, and that I believe has produced such a medium as the internet that absolutely establishes and shows us that we are living in total fragmentation.”

David Bowie Painting In Brixton

Innovative dot painting of David Bowie Mural painted by Street artist James Cochran, aka Jimmy C in the singers home town of Brixton.

That quote was yet to become a reality. The sheer and vast amount of ‘fragmentation’ in the world has lead to innovation being something that is expected of us. Take the Hub for instance, our member base is growing yet we never fail to see a rainbow of individuality in them. We have someone combining technology with agriculture for land management, someone with an App that can show you 3D routes for Skiing using the latest mapping technologies and someone who wants to use mapping data to develop ‘safer routes’ for venerable people walking at night! They’re all impressive things. Their individuality, combined with enthusiasm and passion in believing that what they’re doing will work out for them is something that I think we can all understand is what Bowie did best, and something that we need to do to be innovators. This is what Bowie can teach us about innovation: the importance of the fight, the mission. Reinvent yourself, yes, but keep your eye on the goal, because when you know where you’re going it all becomes simple.