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Out of Our Minds
Friday, December 03, 2004 12:28 PM
Something's Happening Here, but You Don't Know What it is
Anita Sharpe on Culture

dylan.jpgEventually, almost every company runs into something that threatens its tried-and-true formula; many if not most businesses come up with a dozen sound reasons why they should ignore that something.

For Columbia Records in the 1960s, that something was Bob Dylan's seminal recording, 'Like a Rolling Stone.' The New York Times has a riveting piece today about the single that almost didn't get released. Despite a legion of fans inside Columbia, the sales and marketing people didn't think it would work, says the Times.

'The unstated reason was that they just didn't like raucous rock 'n' roll,' writes Shaun Considine, who played a big roll in getting the song released. 'The sales and marketing people had made Columbia a winner by selling mainstream American music -- pop, jazz, country, gospel, the best of Broadway and Hollywood. It was this thinking that had led the label to turn down Elvis Presley in 1955 and the first American album by the Beatles in 1963.'

What has your company turned down lately because it just didn't fit the plan?


Kent - 12/6/2004 11:47:11 AM
Anybody see Dylan on '60 Minutes'?
Nothing was delivered.

As for 'Self-Portrait,' two points:
1. If it had been pared down to one disc, leaving out filler like 'Blue Moon' and 'The Boxer,' it would have been a good record. 'Copper Kettle' and 'Days of 49' for example, are great songs.
2. It wasn't a good record because Dylan had too much control at that point and succumbed to his own excesses. Everybody needs an editor, they say.
g - 12/5/2004 7:19:15 PM
Don't we all make such choices daily?
anita - 12/5/2004 5:00:53 PM
Thank you, Ian.

Your comment is intriguing and encouraging -- that a company turned down lucrative business because of conflicting values.
Ian Bryan - 12/5/2004 2:23:29 PM
What has your company turned down lately because it just didn't fit the plan? Great thinking-point. My company, just last week, turned down a contract that would have yielded a higher return than all of our other profit centers combined. It was a board decision, based on seemingly irresolvable conflicting values present between our organization and the potential client. Should we have 'redefined' our values or sought out a creative approach? I don’t think so, but we have all been asking ourselves this question for a few days. I guess only time tells. Outstanding, brilliant magazine. Speaks to me. Speaks to many, I imagine. I think you will be very successful. Congratulations.
g - 12/4/2004 4:10:44 AM
After a few too-serious posts here and elsewhere this past few days I'll allow myself some levity.

Sure, I'm glad Dylan 'pushed some different stuff' (most of which I have and enjoy). Falls down on 'Self Portait' though... after 30 years ''m still unsure of it's merit and think Greil Marcus may have been right in the Rolling Stone review during which he positied 'What is this shit?'.

Anyway. Whatever the merit or otherwise of the album, perhaps the key point is this...

Dylan gave his audience heaps of mystery and drama for sure, but mostly he brought a spirit of invention to the floor. He rarely repeated himself, and he rarely got boring.

That's something from which we can all learn.

Personally, I think 'plan' is over-rated (my 'job' is strategist) and too restrictive... so I try to just use 'guides' instead. Only slightly off-topic, and for those who're interested, the left/right brain thing is well/cunningly/beautifully illustrated by Weinberger at http://www.hyperorg.com/speaker/bio.html
mike - 12/4/2004 2:58:55 AM
Awesome title for the entry btw.
Also notice that the greatest accomplishments almost always are huge risks at the time. Go BOB.
Eric McNulty - 12/3/2004 5:14:38 PM
Check out Don Sull's book 'Revival of the Fittest' for more on 'defining commitments' that shape how decisions are made within companies -- and how hard it is to adapt to new conditions.

Today's piece was a great story of initiative (and luck)!


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