I recently read an article called “How Good Management Stifles Breakthrough Innovation” on hbr.org. Here’s the opening bit of the article:
“We hear a lot these days about how big companies fail to innovate, but the truth is more complicated. A lot of companies excel at developing better products, yet these improvements are incremental. They’re not the breakthrough offerings that can jump-start growth and profitability. And companies’ success at cranking out these enhancements hampers them from getting better at the radical projects.” -hbr.org
So what does this article about business have to do with producing music? A lot.
See, we tend to set up our own set of acceptable guidelines that we work within – afraid to venture out into the great unknown. Maybe we’ve received praise for a certain snare drum sound we’ve achieved in a rock production, or even the vocal tone on a jazz record. When we know “what works,” we tend to play it safe, and do that same thing over, and over, and over, and over…
And over. But much like that of the big companies that the aforementioned article is dealing with, our “management” of our creative resources and even ideas can actually limit our success at creating the next “breakthrough” production.
So how do we overcome this? There’s a few things you can try to do if you find yourself in this cyclical world of “good management”:
1. Take a break. This sounds somewhat counterproductive, but it might be just what you need. If you’re working on a mix and not liking what you’re hearing, take a few days away from it to clear all of your preconceived ideas about the mixing process. Try to come at it with fresh ears and ideas.
2. Listen to new music. This is another simple yet overlooked tool to get your brain thinking in new and innovative ways. When we’re stuck, we tend to run to the music we love to see what they’re doing that we aren’t. But instead of feeding your creative desire with “old” information, try challenging it with something new.
3. Purposefully put yourself out of your comfort zone. This is a tougher thing to do, but it can be one of the most rewarding. Try writing a song in a completely new genre. Use a different mic on your guitar amp. Use a different snare drum sample. This can really help you be more creative and ultimately innovative in your productions.
Try these tips out to hit your next personal breakthrough – you’ll be surprised at what you can do. Do you have any favorite ways to push yourself to the next level?