You are here

Innovation: Finding Inspiration With Bob Dylan

Published on
08 December 2016

How can companies that face innovation challenges find inspiration thanks to Bob Dylan, who was very much into radically transforming his art? Interview with Mark Smith, a professor of human resources and faculty dean at Grenoble Ecole de Management.

Mark Smith

"Innovation is not for the weak. There is considerable pressure in society and organizations to maintain the status quo. Bob Dylan was never afraid to break with the past—even when it already worked."

Can you elaborate on the connection between Bob Dylan and the business world?

For 50 years, Bob Dylan refused to be categorized. He was guided by the vision of what he wanted to do. He felt changing contexts and took the risk of losing part of his initial audience in order to innovate artistically. His first albums are characterized by the presence of a solo artist with an acoustic guitar and a harmonica.

But his fifth album offered both an acoustic side and an electronic side. It was the era of vinyl and he started building on the creative opportunities offered by electronic instruments. At the time, some of his fans didn’t appreciate the change. But it led to some of his emblematic albums such as Highway 61.

In the same manner, people didn’t suspect the need and impact smartphones would have. One company was able to detect this coming change. More recently, companies such as Airbnb and Uber have anticipated deep changes in our consumer society. This doesn’t mean we no longer need hotels or traditional drivers. But there is a profound change going on and they were able to build on it.

"To progressively adjust and improve the existing is more important than radical change." How does this statement fit with your previous commentary on anticipating radical changes?

Of course, radical change is sexy. But most of the time, improvements are done little by little. Most of the time, things work well and you simply need to adjust a little and bring small improvements to increase performance. By implementing radical change, you risk throwing out an idea before it has reached its potential. The impact on employees can be high and the human and organization cost can be too much to bear for companies. However, small almost unnoticeable changes can lead to improved products and performance, efficient systems, and perfect processes.

As an example you can look at Japanese production systems or the Team Sky in the Tour de France. For 50 years, Bob Dylan was a figure of continuous innovation. He is on a never ending tour since 1988, yet anyone who goes to a concert will know that his songs are rarely similar to those we love in his albums.

"Innovation requires you to consider a problem from a different perspective. Only by taking a step back, by observing things with a new point of view, or by leaving the usual path, can we advance."

How does this attitude fit in with innovative companies?

This attitude is represented by organizations that know how to take a step back and analyze their situation. Those that can look deeply at the roots of change. For example, you can see this with companies that allow their employees time to work on personal projects. Or companies where responsibility, creativity and autonomous thinking are encouraged. Such companies exist!

Another example can be found in transportation companies that have to meet changes created by online purchasing and a paperless economy. A large part of Bob Dylan's art is precisely about finding a new approach to creating a popular song by looking at it from a perspective that differs from other musicians. Even within a song, he has the capacity to present things in an innovative manner. Much like a cubist painting, we know what is at the top, bottom, left and right, but we also know we're partaking in a passionate story with emotions.

Innovation management according to Bob Dylan

  1. Defend a radical and courageous vision that goes against expectations
  2. Continuously adjust and improve processes, products and services
  3. Modify your perspective and look at things from a new angle
  4. Adopt an approach that is untraditional in order to encourage the discovery of new needs

On the same subject

  • Published on 12 May 2020

    How to go beyond “innovation for innovation’s sake?”

    The French Citizens’ Convention for Climate submitted 50 proposals for the environmental transition. A first step towards including citizen input for future environmental legislation in France.

  • MIT GSW 2020
    Published on 03 April 2020

    Mit Global Startup Workshop 2020 Competition Results

    Despite the current state of affairs, Grenoble Ecole de Management (GEM), Massachusetts Institute of Technology Global Startup Workshop (MIT GSW) and the project sponsors have fully maintained their commitment to continuing both the Elevator Pitch...

  • grenoble presqu'ile
    Published on 18 February 2020

    MIT GSW 2020: an international event for disruptive entrepreneurship

    The MIT Global Startup Workshop will come to France for the first time. This international event dedicated to entrepreneurship is co-organized by Grenoble Ecole de Management and offers a unique opportunity to explore the theme of disruptive...

  • Published on 13 March 2020

    2020 MIT GSW: entrepreneurship for sustainable societies

    The MIT Global Startup Workshop (GSW) 2020 in-person event on March 23 & 24, 2020 in Grenoble, France, has been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

  • Innovation manager: how to encourage an open innovation mindset?
    Published on 17 December 2019

    Innovation manager: how to encourage an open innovation mindset?

    An innovation manager is a key player in a company’s ability to stay ahead of the game. How can managers position themselves in order to ensure the sustainability of their organization?

  • GEM ouvre une filière Innovation for Sustainability Transition
    Published on 08 November 2019

    Societal issues: new track in "Innovation for Sustainability Transition"

    Grenoble Ecole de Management continues its investment for a better society. The School has just launched an "Innovation for Sustainability Transition" track with 28 students on board. The aim is to train future leaders in the transition from...

  • Published on 17 September 2019

    Video: Why are our innovation models not working?

    Sylvie Blanco, Professor-Researcher in Management and Technology, and Executive Director of Innovation at Grenoble Ecole de Management, explains in a Xerfi Canal interview.

  • Le TIM Lab prototype l’innovation des entreprises
    Published on 21 July 2019

    TIM Lab: prototyping business innovation

    Created with a design thinking approach, the TIM Lab offers a collaborative space for learning about and improving business innovation. From idea generation to prototyping, participants are encouraged to improve their autonomy and creativity for...

  • La recherche prospective : épicentre de l’innovation
    Published on 22 July 2019

    Forward-looking search: encouraging cutting-edge innovation

    Innovation is at the heart of business growth, in particular for dynamic sectors such as the high tech industry. To encourage radical innovation, it’s essential to integrate a future-oriented search and analysis process throughout an innovation...

  • Quand la réalité virtuelle entre dans le bloc opératoire
    Published on 21 June 2019

    Virtual reality to enter the operating room

    The age of virtual reality is upon us and with it, new approaches to education. Thanks to its immersive environment, virtual reality offers a unique opportunity for training in at-risk environments such as hospital operating rooms.

  • simulation-based medical tool
    Published on 09 April 2019

    Virtual reality: training medical students on infection control

    Grenoble Ecole de Management, University Grenoble Alpes, Imperial College London and Heidelberg University have partnered with the start-up Simango to deliver the first virtual reality training on infection control in operating rooms.

  • Open innovation: the key to staying ahead of the game
    Published on 11 March 2019

    Open innovation: the key to staying ahead of the game

    Over the past 20 years, the pace of technological development has skyrocketed. To stay competitive, companies have to innovate efficiently and quickly bring new products or services to market. Open innovation offers a vision that can increase the...

  • 21 jours pour innover : une mission pas impossible
    Published on 21 December 2018

    21 days to innovate: a serious game to improve innovation!

    It takes 21 days to change a habit. What if a serious game could change our innovation habits in 21 days?

  • Grenoble Ecole de Management étaye son offre de services corporate
    Published on 23 November 2018

    GEM: a catalyst for innovation

    Serious games, the first-year challenge, research chairs, a business lab… Innovation is at the heart of Grenoble Ecole de Management. The school offers students, researchers and businesses an environment to foster creativity and collaboration.

  • Le Parcours TechBiz manage l’innovation des entreprises technologiques
    Published on 22 October 2018

    TechBiz: innovation management for tech companies

    Is your tech company looking to improve its market strategy? TechBiz offers a unique opportunity to collaborate with motivated and specialized students. Under the supervision of an experienced mentor, the students will offer an in-depth analysis of...

  • Published on 06 December 2018

    Serious game online: 15 min a day to make innovation a routine

    Grenoble Ecole de Management's new serious game « 21 days, The Innovation Quest » has been awarded the Silver Award in the Cultivating Curiosity category of Re-imagine Education, the international competition rewarding educational innovative...

  • David Gotteland est professeur de marketing à Grenoble Ecole de Management
    Published on 21 June 2018

    How Can You Create a Reliable Innovation Process?

    Formatted, creative methods with a framework enable scientifically proven increases in innovation processes. The stakes are high as only 15% of innovative ideas at a company end up as financial and commercial successes.

  • Published on 11 April 2018

    Comment accélérer la croissance des start-up ?

    Quels sont les mécanismes qui permettent d’évaluer le potentiel des entreprises high tech ? A partir des résultats d’une étude menée aux Etats-Unis avec John Stayton sur les accélérateurs d’entreprises, Vincent Mangematin présente trois méthodes d’...

  • CES 2018 GEM
    Published on 10 April 2018

    CES 2018 : le bilan d’une collaboration gagnante

    Du 9 au 12 janvier, les 30 étudiants du Mastère Spécialisé Entrepreneurs de Grenoble Ecole de Management (GEM) ont accompagné 9 start-up locales et régionales au plus grand salon mondial de l’innovation technologique grand public : le Consumer...

  • Published on 19 December 2017

    Design Thinking: Generating Pragmatic Ideas

    Design thinking is the art of finding unexpected solutions. How can we encourage this creative process?

  • Erno TORNIKOSKI is a Professor in Entrepreneurship at Grenoble Ecole de Management.
    Published on 28 September 2017

    Research: Entrepreneurship, understanding Technology-Based Competitive Advantage

    Policy-makers, researchers and entrepreneurs generally agree that R...

  • Erno TORNIKOSKI is a Professor in Entrepreneurship at Grenoble Ecole de Management.
    Published on 28 September 2017

    Recherche : Entrepreneuriat, comment la technologie peut devenir un avantage concurrentiel

    Décideurs, chercheurs et entrepreneurs conviennent facilement que la R...

  • Published on 17 November 2016

    Michelin Innovates Using Serious Games

    Michelin innove dans son approche de services de la mobilité grâce à l’open innovation, au serious Game "Tech It ! " et avec les étudiants de GEM.

  • Published on 17 November 2016

    Mobilité : comment Michelin innove

    Michelin innove dans son approche de services de la mobilité grâce à l’open innovation, au serious Game "Tech It ! " et avec les étudiants de GEM.