The speed of change within business has been relentless throughout the decades. In this world, both in nature and in business, either we embrace change and adapt or we wither and die.
In the spirit of thinking about change, I thought it may be fun to look at some innovation through the decades; identify some transformative ideas that have impacted on the world.
Let’s start with the era I was born, the 60s, an age of revolution and a backdrop of Vietnam, the Cold War, assassinations of John F Kennedy and Martin Luther King and the sentencing of Nelson Mandela to life imprisonment.
The Sixties provided us with a multitude of momentous images and icons and also heralded the arrival of some incredible feats of technological ingenuity. Cast your mind back, if you can, to the feeling of watching a fantasy world become reality, as the world watched spellbound as Neil Armstrong stepped out onto the surface of the moon.
Against this turbulent and exciting multi coloured canvas of the Sixties I have selected three key inventions that I believe became huge catalysts for change.
This month let’s start with 1962.
Phillips invented and released the first compact audio cassette and kick started a revolution in the way we listened to and shared music. I remember recording my favourite TV and movie soundtracks on a cassette, hoping no one would come into the sitting room that was my recording studio and disturb the process.
In 1966 albums on cassette arrived in the US with Nina Simone, Eartha Kitt and Johnny Mathis among the first artists on tape; the UK followed suit in 1967. Since it was harder to select tracks on cassette than on record, listening to an album from the first track through to the last became more ingrained in music culture.
One of the added benefits for indie bands was the low cost of buying blank tapes. Musicians could record themselves more easily, without a record label to help them. This helped DIY genres such as post-punk, which enjoyed an active mail-order culture, and it also flourished in hip-hop, where it proved lucrative for some.
In the 1980s cassettes helped to bring a taste of the decadent west behind the Iron Curtain, as an underground cassette culture in Poland helped music to travel. Teenagers became awakened to banned lyrics, anti-communist ideas and a freedom of expression that had been denied to them for so long.
The real mass market appeal of music cassettes came in the next decade, with the arrival of the iconic Sony Walkman in 1979. This heralded the start of a portable music revolution, which took another great leap forward with the introduction of Apple’s iPod in October 2001…More of the magic of Apple later…