Producing Results Blog

Where the Great Ideas Come From

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How often do you come up with a brilliant, innovative idea that changes the shape of your industry? The Beatles did it all the time. How? Partly by being continuously open to new ideas, no matter where they may come from. Let’s take a look at the genesis of two landmark Beatles songs: John Lennon’s I Am the Walrus and Paul McCartney’s Penny Lane.

John Lennon was sitting at his home in Weybridge, England one day when he happened to hear the sound of a police siren racing by. In England, the police siren consists of two alternating notes a semitone apart: dee-duh-dee-duh-dee-duh-dee-duh. Now, how many times have you and I heard a police siren in our lives? Hundreds? Thousands? They pretty much fade into the background of our conscious, don’t they? Not so with Lennon. Even when just relaxing at home, a part of his creative filter was always active. While everybody else would have simply heard a police siren and forgotten about it, Lennon, hearing the same siren, turned it into “I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together,” the opening lines of one of his greatest songs.

The Beatles understood that great ideas are all around us, but most of us don’t listen and don’t see. We tend to do the same things, interact with the same people, listen to the same points of view every day. But if we were to stretch ourselves just a little, the boost to our creativity could be enormous. You never know where the great ideas are going to come from.

Paul McCartney was home one evening watching a concert of classical music by Bach on the BBC. The particular piece was Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 2, part of which utilizes a very small, high-pitched trumpet. Paul had never seen or heard this instrument before. Where most of us might simply shrug it off, or perhaps comment to ourselves “Hmm, that’s interesting,” and then forget it, Paul got creative. The next day he went into the recording studio and asked the Beatles’ producer, George Martin–who was a classically-trained musician–what the instrument was.

“It’s called a piccolo trumpet, Paul,” said Martin.

“Can we use it, then?” asked Paul.

“Certainly, if you write something for it.”

So Paul McCartney, inspired by the music of Bach, went home and added the finishing touch to what many consider to be one of the best songs in the Beatles catalog, Penny Lane. That finishing touch? You guessed it–a piccolo trumpet! (And here’s a cool piece of trivia for you: to play the piccolo trumpet on Penny Lane, the Beatles brought in the very same musician McCartney had been watching on the BBC–one David Mason of the English Chamber Orchestra.)

You never know where the great ideas are going to come from. Keep your eyes and ears open. Have conversations with people you wouldn’t normally talk to. Attend events you wouldn’t normally attend. And keep your creative filter alert. You never know who, or what, is going to be the inspiration for your next brilliant idea–the one that changes the shape of your industry!


About the Author:

29-time Emmy Award winner and Hall of Fame keynote speaker Bill Stainton, CSP is an expert on Innovation, Creativity, and Breakthrough Thinking. He helps leaders and their teams come up with innovative solutions — on demand — to their most challenging problems.
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