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What innovations and hip-hop Jazz have in common

An interview with MC Simon

In our dynamic age, the creation and implementation of innovations within long, rigid innovation processes no longer makes sense. Rather, creative “outside the box thinking”, speed and the combination of different creative people are required to create innovations that suit customers and markets – innovation jam!

In this EARLY BRANDS Insight interview Simon being a passionate freestyle Hip-Hop and Jazz musician and Innovation & Technology Consultant gives us insights what innovations and Jazz Hip-Hop have in common – let’s get it on.

EARLY BRANDS Insights: Simon, you and your band „Pecco Billo” have already performed at many concerts. What are “magic moments” for you when you come together as a band and make music?

MC Simon: What is most impressive for us at Pecco Billo is that we always reinvent ourselfes. We have known each other for a very long time now, roughly like “from the inside out.” Nevertheless no rehearsal, no concert and no jam session is like the other. We focus on “continious improvement“. Even our evergreens are constantly being developed. We always challenge the “status quo”. Thus, we spontaneously create and embed creative new input. Without any limits. Everyone in our band has the freedom to focus on their personal skills and preferences. And that is a good thing: influences from classical and electronic music to African beats come together in our common “Billo cooking pot”. Our individual “Pecco Billo DNA” – creativity that you can hear and feel.

This always inspires me to throw the ball further – also concerning innovation. Borders should flow. Gain inspiration from a variety of branches and playgrounds. Approach new things across markets and industries. Be open, stay open. If you put this in the right context with passion and a strong team, it becomes thrilling song or successful innovation.

EARLY BRANDS Insights: From your point of view as a musician and innovator – are there recipes for success of freestyle jazz, hip-hop production that are equally useful for successful innovation development?

MC Simon: Yes, a lot. One principle from jazz that can be translated 1 to 1 into successful innovation development is that there are no “false tones”. Or as Miles Davis describes it beautifully: “When you hit a wrong note, it’s the next one that makes it good or bad.” This is exactly the spirit we celebrate at EARLY BRANDS. There is no “right” or “wrong” in our case. It depends on what you can make of it and learn from it.

This view is essential for successful innovation. It needs an environment that motivates you to try new things and to take new paths + beak through boundaries. This is how great innovations or the next earworm are created. And if something does not go as planned, then you should try something different – just like with the build-measure-learn loop or as with impro in a jam session. You have a certain idea in your head and perform it together in a team. If this does not fit, then it will be changed at the next run or design sprint – open to results, trial-and-error. This is how you create the next innovation hit together. But it’s important to start and try it out. Otherwise you step on the spot and play the same song for the umpteenth time.

Another parallel between jazz/hip-hop and innovation development is that it is enriched by the diversity of different minds. Music and innovation flourish through the creative combination of various skills and instruments. Whether saxophone + drums or programming language + empathy. The only thing that has to be there is passion and a common goal: create something new. In this way, boundaries are broken and horizons are broadened. Several people are reached and the most diverse stages are played. Whether at a jazz prize, an electric festival or an innovation jam. Diversity in total reaches and unites people.

And people are always at the heart of music and innovation. The musicians and the innovation team are the beginning. But a concert or a new business opportunity can only be successfully realized if the listener, the customer, is the focus. Music thrives on the mutual interaction of people. It is the same with innovations. A new solution can still be good in theory: if it is not possible to interact with and inspire people, it is the same as an unused sheet of music – a simple piece of paper…

EARLY BRANDS Insights: Have you ever been able to contribute experiences from your involvement as a jazz and hip-hop saxophonist in your band in the development of digital business models at EARLY BRANDS?

MC Simon: I guess you can say…! I am surprised by myself nearly everyday how my experience with Pecco Billo and music enriches and supports my work around innovative business models.

An example: The wheel does not always have to be reinvented. There is already so much exciting out there that we can use and build on. Traditional jam sessions are based on so-called jazz standards. You use a template, which is then creatively reinvented together. As we built on strong foundations, we can better explore (musical) possibilities and opportunities.

Also, it is super-exciting how inspiration from different music genres, e.g. from electronic music, can be found and integrated into jazzy beats. This is very fascinating. Two supposedly different styles. We also use this approach at EARLY BRANDS with our cross-market and cross-industry innovation & technology scouting. We always have a look at what we can learn and adapt from a wide range of industries and markets. This makes us faster, more agile and helps us to continuously broaden our horizons.

“Listening” is also very important in music and my work as an Innovation & Technology Consultant. Jam sessions thrive on playing creatively together and not passing each other. You take up beats and ideas of others and shape them with your own energy. We do the same at EARLY BRANDS. In team sessions with colleagues, partners and also customers, we work together strongly and quickly to develop and “freestyle” innovative business models. Like an “Innovation Jam Session”. Through this teaming the best is extracted from different minds and experts. And we make 1+1 = 3.

Music and innovations are enriched by creative exchange and combination of different instruments and skills. It needs courage, setbacks and failures + an open, agile mindset to create something new . There are many “mantras” around innovation that manifest the importance of failure: “fail fast, fail often” or ” success is 99% failure“. At Pecco Billo we have dedicated our own song to this topic – Pechvögel (unlucky birds). We illustrate the statement that a “mistake” is important for the success of new ideas as follows:


EARLY BRANDS Insights: Last but not least: what is on your personal playlist for innovation jam sessions? For creativity, jam feeling and a successful team play?

MC Simon: Oh, that’s hard – I try to reduce it to my favorite five:

And for the days you realize that you have been rocking creative innovations until midnight: Roman Flügel – Pattern 16

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