As we say goodbye to last year and launch ourselves into the next New Year, we should take the opportunity to reflect on what has happened and to consider what this means to us both personally and professionally.
Already being lauded as a year that will be significant in our history, much has happened, and much of it was neither predicted or expected. Wars, mass migration, political instability and uncertainty have constantly headlined, leaving us with more questions than answers, as we enter a New Year. Beneath these headlines are the ever-present challenges of climate change, habitat loss and the continual threat to our fragile planet.
For me, one of the most significant tragedies was the death of David Bowie. My earliest memories of him in the late sixties were of a radically different kind of rock star. Defiant, sexually ambiguous, and always at the vanguard of contemporary culture, Bowie epitomised change.
Born, David Jones in 1947, he first rose to fame in 1969 with his single "Space Oddity" as Apollo 11 landed on the moon. This marked the beginning of a career that spanned five decades, including the first ever single "Let’s Dance" to top both the UK and USA charts at the same time, right up to one of his last recordings, "Killing a Little Time", released 9 months after his death!
Provocative, unpredictable and challenging, he was a consummate innovator and entrepreneur. Continually transforming himself from one character to another; Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, Diamond Dogs, to name just three. He was always re-imagining himself and never held on to a character for too long. Bowie was an icon of our time and we can learn much from his approach to music, fashion and stage persona. He understood the imperative of change and leadership and was probably the most innovative performer of his generation.
So what can we learn from David Bowie?
Change as an imperative - Bowie didn’t just welcome change, he made change happen. His success was borne out of rapidly transforming from one persona to another, embracing opportunities to differentiate himself from the rest and to do things differently.
Constant innovation - He cut short the life cycle of every character he invented, before each had a chance to become either expected or exploited. Through continually re-imagining himself he was able to stay fresh and new in the eyes of his customers and supporters.
Co-creation - As a hugely successful artist in his own right, he could have been forgiven if he had always done it all alone, but he could see the value in blending his brand with others. He collaborated with Brian Eno, Mick Ronson, Lou Reed and many others to produce individual works of genius, and performed with artists as varied as Mick Jagger "Dancing In The Street”, Queen “Under Pressure” and even Bing Crosby “The Little Drummer Boy”.
Creative force - Bowie was initially misunderstood by many of my parent's generation. He epitomised everything they were afraid of and confused about in young people. Drug taking, sexual ambiguity (one of his earlier albums in 1971, “The Man Who Sold The World" saw him wearing a dress on the front cover), he offered a flamboyant yet confident challenge to establishment. But to my generation and to many that followed, he gave us the confidence to aim high. He challenged us to take risks, to provoke and not to be afraid of thinking differently. His creativity and ambition were an inspiration to those of us who knew we could do better. He spawned a generation of free thinking radicals who’s pursuit of independence and innovation drove change across society.
There are so many parallels between how Bowie led his life as an artist and how successful businesses need to continually re-invent themselves in order to stay relevant and to survive. His 50 year track record of doing just this should stand as an example to us all.
Here at Impact, we believe in exploring new possibilities, embracing new ways of making things happen and with our customers and partners, daring to make different things happen. Like Bowie, we thrive on change and welcome opportunities to reinvent ourselves and our practice. It’s this that has enabled us to stay successful and independent for 37 years and it is this that will drive our success going forward.
We are now pioneering new approaches to transforming whole organisations. Creating ways to change attitudes and behaviours. Looking for opportunities to support our clients as they respond to some of the challenges of our day. Promoting responsible leadership as a catalyst for change.
Building on what we have learnt over the years and re-framing this into people led initiatives that create new cultures, products and services, we are determined to continue being relevant and useful to our global client organisations. We look forward to joining you on your journeys.
I’d like to wish you a happy, prosperous and creative New Year from all of us here at Impact.
With best wishes