A Riff On Transformation From AI

I’m pretty sure that each of you has a guilty pleasure or two. One of mine is American Idol which, despite its diminished viewership and declining influence, is still the only singing competition that regularly puts out talent making hit recordings. Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood are the two biggest musical names that also won but Jennifer Hudson, Chris Daughtry, and a slew of other musical names have come out of the show.

American Idol logo 2008–2011

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the things I enjoy most about the program, besides watching unknown singers turning into stars, are the times when a truly memorable performance occurs. Last night we had one and it actually made me think of an important business lesson.

Most of the really great performances on Idol have come when a singer takes a song and remakes it in his or her own style. Over the years, Adam Lambert took a Tears for Fears song (Mad World), slowed it down, and stripped the arrangement to feature his voice. Brilliant, although the fact that he sang it out of the park helped too! The year David Cook won, he transformed a song almost every week to make it his own. Last night, one of the contenders, a young woman named Candice Glover, did the same with The Cure’s “Love Song.” She performed Adele’s re-imagination of the song and took it to another level.  Which is exactly the business point.

While it’s hard to say, as does Ecclesiastes, that there’s nothing new under the sun (not in technology anyway), many of the best new products and services are transformed versions of things that have come before.  In some cases it’s optimizing a service or product for a digital world (for the digital voice, if you will).  In other cases, it’s transforming something altogether to make it better – mp3 players to iPhones are the most obvious examples but there are many others.

The lesson from Idol is that whatever you do, make it yours and make it spectacularly good.  Seems like some excellent business thinking as well.  You agree?

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