Impressions

by Cochran

Coco and Igor as Innovators

Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel

Image via Wikipedia

I just returned from a private* screening of “Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky,” the Jan Kounen film which closed the 2009 Cannes Film Festival and is now showing in U.S. theaters. Beautifully filmed and acted, the film spoke to me on multiple levels. As a serious classical musician, lover of Stravinsky’s music and passionate devotee of French culture, Kounen had me from the downbeat.

And, what a downbeat it was! The opening scene depicts the tension leading up to the 1913 world premiere of Diaghilev’s ballet, The Rite of Spring, set to music by Stravinsky, at Le Théâtre des Champs-Elysées in Paris. The unsuspecting audience, so accustomed to ballets like Swan Lake and others from the late-Romantic Russian repertoire, riots. The dancers and orchestra musicians are barely able to continue performing. The entire scene is wildly disruptive.

Interestingly, Coco Chanel is in the audience and she seems to be one of the few listeners who understands Stravinsky’s music. The complicated love story (and aren’t all French love stories complicated?) picks up again in 1920, once she and Stravinsky have each made names for themselves in Paris.

I was struck by the fact that Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky were immediately simpatico, perhaps because they were both innovators. He, a Russian composer then living in Paris, was writing music with uneasy, syncopated rhythms and disruptive harmonies new to the world’s ears. Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel turned the women’s fashion world upside down, designing clothing that was not only chic, but thankfully, comfortably corset-less.

Mark Bernstein, CEO of the Palo Alto Research Center, defines innovation as “a valuable change, unconstrained by the way things are.” If his definition is accurate, then Igor Stravinsky and Coco Chanel should take their places at the top of a list of early 20th century innovators. Although we usually see the term “innovation” attributed to late 20th century corporations such as Procter & Gamble and Apple, let’s not forget some of the world’s earlier innovators who helped to change the way we think.

Which other early 20th century innovators would you add to this list?

* My screening was private only by accident. Pity no one else showed up to enjoy this incredibly insightful film with me.

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August 8, 2010 Posted by | creativity, design thinking, Innovation, music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

You. On Twitter. 10 Tips.

Last August, I wrote a post entitled “You is #1.” At that time, I was inspired by a new Yale study which revealed that “You” continues to be the #1 most powerful word in the English language, both online and off. “You” is personal. “You” attracts customers. “You” also attracts Twitter followers and keeps them engaged.

Here are my 10 tips on how You can enjoy more success on Twitter.

1. Be yourself.

2. Use your photo. If you use a logo or other avatar, I won’t get to know you. Unless you’re @HarvardBiz or @fastcompany, without that personal touch, I’ll probably lose interest and unfollow you.

3. Use your online bio to give potential followers a snippet of information about you. Your bio can make or break whether someone wants to follow you or not.

4. Whom you choose to follow reflects on you. Be choosy, and remember, as your Twitter strategy evolves and your standards change, you can unfollow anyone at any time.

5. Tell me something about you. This doesn’t mean “Here’s my company name, what I do and please buy something from me.” Tell me something about you. “Happy Birthday to you, Mozart” tells me you’re interested in classical music. “Meet you at the live music milonga tonight at 10” tells me you’re interested in tango. “Think you’ll appreciate today’s op-ed by @NYTimesFriedman on healthcare reform” tells me even more about what interests you.

6. Ask my opinion. Show that you’re interested in me, in how I think and in the issues that matter to me. “What do you think about the new iPad? Is it just an iFad or here to stay?”

7. Ask me what I’m doing. Questions like “What are you reading lately?” or “What are you listening to on your iPod right now?” can really start the conversation.

8. Do tell me what you’re doing, but do so in a way that reveals more about you. Rather than tweeting “I overslept this morning,” a more engaging tweet might be “Stayed up way too late last night reading Roger Martin’s new book, The Design of Business. Overslept, but it was worth it.”

9. Tweet your thoughts. Sure, re-tweeting is encouraged and adding links to other people’s content is an effective strategy. But, make it a priority to regularly post your own thoughts. What is important to you right now? Share that with me. At least 20% of the time, post tweets in your own words. Let me know you can think on your own, that you have opinions and that you truly wish to foster a relationship with me.

10. And, be yourself. (Did I mention that?)

February 3, 2010 Posted by | creativity, design thinking, social media | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Life Lessons: The Music of Business

One year ago, one of my articles was published in an educational magazine of interest to high school and college-aged flute students and their teachers. (My former career was as a classical musician.) I had written the article not long after the passing of the well-known and highly-respected French flutist, Louis Moyse, my teacher and musical mentor of 30 years.

I came across the article again a few days ago and was taken by the fact that the musical “Life Lessons” I had shared with other flutists can easily apply to those of us in today’s business world.

What follows are 10 of the many memorable quotes I remember from Louis Moyse, followed by my translations. To apply the lessons to business life, I have added just a few words to my original writing and have shown them in parentheses.

  1. “This is your territory — mark it!” Find your place in the (business) world and make the most of it!
  2. “Start from nothing. Then, allow yourself to grow.” — Make knowledge and self-improvement your lifelong quest.
  3. “Don’t be a flutist; it’s much more important to be a musician.” — Look at the details, certainly, but don’t forget to focus on the broader (business) picture. Think strategically.
  4. “It may be marked ‘Grave’ but it’s not necessarily about death!” Don’t make things out to be worse than they really are.
  5. “You must learn to be your own teacher.” — You are responsible for your own destiny. Learn from your mistakes and move on.
  6. “You need to suffer!” With (business) experience comes understanding.
  7. “Be more free, like a sheep. Sometimes it helps not to have too much brains (sic),” — Trust your (business) instincts.”
  8. “There is no such thing as ‘instant flute’. You have to work at it!” — Success (in music or business) is not supposed to come easily.
  9. “Sometimes, the most difficult thing is to do nothing, —  Some things (in business) are best left alone.
  10. “Make it simple.” Clear straightforward (business) communication has a power all its own.

If you’re interested in reading the original article in its entirety, please email me: rebecca@cochrancreativegroup.com

January 12, 2010 Posted by | business, music | , , , , , | Leave a comment

10 Ways To Help You Get Creative

Note: Hearing that 10 is a magic number as far as the search bots and retweet-ers are concerned, I’m consolidating my two earlier posts into one.

Aren’t Feeling Particularly Creative These Days?

You’re not alone. Many people admit to being so distracted by the avalanche of stimuli demanding their instant and constant attention that they have lost the ability to be creative. Here are ten tips to help get you back on a more creative track:

1) Do a little something new every day. By challenging yourself to make even a small daily change to the status quo, you’ll unleash some pent-up creativity. Examples: Take a different route to the office or to the coffee shop. Or, order something you’ve never tried before at the cafeteria or lunch counter. Who knows? All this newness could become a creative habit.

2) Talk to interesting people. Seek out people who challenge you to think about topics that are new to you. Everywhere you go, try to catch the eye of someone who looks interesting or different. Start the conversation yourself. You’ll both benefit.

3) Take a walk. When in doubt, take a walk. (This one, I learned from my dog). Walking out-of-doors stimulates your brain cells. Just the act of moving around puts a creative new spin on things.

4) Turn off the TV. As “creative” as some of those sitcoms may be, just sitting and staring at a screen is no exercise for your brain (right side or left).

5) Listen to Bach. More than any other composer, Bach’s music is so orderly and exquisitely structured that, just by listening, we get the equivalent of “defragging” the hard drives in our minds. You’ll immediately feel less cluttered. Trust me: it works and you’ll enjoy yourself in the process.

6) Get away from your computer. Many creatives claim they are creating at their computers. I disagree. I believe creativity happens when we disconnect from technology, at least temporarily. Our computers and accompanying software are simply tools for executing our creative ideas.

7) Limit yourself. Yep, that’s right. Research shows that when you have too many options (the proverbial blank slate), you can actually hinder creativity. When you begin a creative project, allow yourself just a few tools and make up some ground rules. By boxing yourself in a bit, you’ll force yourself to be more resourceful and creative. Try it!

8) Learn to tango. The true Argentine tango is the most improvisational of all dance styles. After only a couple of lessons with a good instructor, you’ll learn the few basic steps. Then, you and your dance partner can step out at a milonga and create your own dance according to the mood, the music and what you wish to communicate to each other. Argentine tango may be the only dance form that allows for unlimited creativity. There are no wrong moves in tango.

9) Fall in love. (Note: Can be combined with #8.) According to a new study at the University of Amsterdam and recounted in Scientific American last week, thinking about love triggers global processing which, in turn, promotes creative thinking. According to the researchers, romantic love induces a long-term perspective and allows the mind to make remote and uncommon associations. I’m convinced!

10) Travel. Akin to the global processing theory of #9, traveling spurs creativity in most of us. Getting away, near or far, stimulates our minds and clears out past clutter. In particular, travel to unusual locales opens up our minds to new ways of looking at things. Supposedly, even just thinking about traveling can get those creative juices flowing. (And, yes, you have my permission to book that trip to Buenos Aires to learn the tango right away!)

Let me know your thoughts. How do you get creative?

October 9, 2009 Posted by | creativity | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments