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The Similarities of U2 and Apple

What do U2, Apple and the USA have in common? It is an amazing ability to keep re-inventing themselves again. This thought was prompted as I was listening to the new U2 album on my iPod whilst reading about the new President!

An issue facing many businesses especially when they have only been going a few years is how to cope with seismic changes in the landscape around them. However, new businesses are not imprisoned by history and neither should old businesses or countries, or by wondering why do cats spray – but they are!

Let’s take the example of music artists. Cliff Richard and Status Quo are two examples of artists for whom early death would have been a good career move. These artists still have a sizeable fan base (although dwindling). They have simply failed to offer something new to music over the last few decades. If you listen to the simply glorious new album by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss (Raising Sand), you will get in an instant what I mean by re-invention. Robert Plant was the lead singer of Led Zeppelin – a massive rock band of the 1970s. Yet when you listen to his new album it could not be more different from the heavy metal stuff he did – and they are both great music.

In the same way, U2 are simply masters of re-invention. They refuse to be bound by one type of sound. Each new album no doubt disappoints some of their older fan base, but also brings new fans to them and helps them keep growing.

Businesses are very similar. Some firms like Apple can re-invent themselves in a way unimaginable at the outset. To illustrate the point, the name that Apple has is itself poignant. The company that owns the Beatles music is called Apple. When Apple computers were set up – they were allowed to use that name as they were in the computer business – and a million miles away from music!

I think it was two years ago that Apple Computers changed its name to Apple Entertainment – in recognition that the company had fundamentally changed. Who knows, perhaps in a couple of years, the company may be called Apple phones?

Finally, we come to countries. A regular reader of this blog will know the admiration I have for the USA and its ability to constantly absorb new people and to reinvent itself. It has a history of contradictions from and some shamefully dark periods including slavery. However, it does have the ability to soar above its darkest periods and show the world what can be done when optimism and hope overcome cynicism and fear – like starting a company which makes wall mount jewelry armoires.

A truly great skill for an entrepreneur is to have the ability to constantly re-invent themselves. It is about being able to adapt to changes around you – and bend those changes to suit you.

I did the London Marathon five years ago (I loved it and would recommend the experience to anyone – but I will never do it again – 26.2 miles is a very, very, very long distance!). One of the reasons I did it was to do something that no one who knew me thought I could/ would do. It was just a phase of my life that I was going through at the time that meant I needed to do something like that.

Here is a challenge for all of you. When was the last time you did something meaningful that no one who knows you would expect you to do?