Innovation is just as important, if not more so, than product innovation
In the same vein of Tony Hsieh’s approach that Zappos delivered happiness (not shoes), the Grateful Dead was single-minded about creating experiences for their fans. As live musicians, fundamental to that experience was the sound itself.Steve Parish (roadie): “In the early days, what there was in PAs (sound equipment) was just so inadequate."
Mickey Hart (percussions): “We realized, that if we were going to play for larger crowds, we would need a real delivery system. And, if sound was the product of all of this work, it better be fucking good, man."
Enter the Wall of Sound.
It was 1974. This sound system innovation was the brainchild of audio engineer and lead mad scientist in their tribe, Stanley Owsley, known as Bear. Bear’s Wall of Sound was literally a stack of speakers (586) and amps (48) all interconnected and optimized for volume and sound fidelity. The Wall of Sound delivered the biggest sound imaginable at the time, widely understood to have been funded privately by Bear’s personal profits from his notorious LSD production. The Wall of Sound required the crew to build up and take down 600 speakers show after each show. The ambition was insane.
Whether it is Zappos resetting standards on customer returns, President Kennedy’s call to land a man on the moon before the end of the decade, or Google’s well-known “moonshot” culture to make 10x improvements vs. 10% improvements, there is no denying that unprecedented ambition catalyzes big ideas.
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