Thursday, 7 July 2016

Lessons from Wagner about innovation: 4. apply enlightened self-interest and find and develop champions

Anton Seidl, an acclaimed orchestral and opera conductor of the late 19th century, showed great musical talent from a very early age.

This talent did not go unnoticed. In 1872, at the age of 22, he was offered a position at Bayreuth as a copyist of Wagner's works. The title copyist is misleading. In fact, Wagner treated Seidl as 'one of the chosen few': he involved Seidl in the first Bayreuth festival of 1876; trusted him to assist in making the first authorised copy of Der Ring des Nibelungen; and sent him to Vienna to stage its last two music dramas (Siegfried and Gotterdammerung). 

Wagner's support did not end there. In 1879, at the tender age of 29 and on the great composer's recommendation, Seidl was appointed conductor of the Leipzig State Opera.

This was the springboard for Seidl's career and during the following years he conducted throughout Europe, Wagner's works taking pride of place within his repertoire.

Now established in his own right, Seidl began to gain attention from beyond Europe and in 1885 was appointed 'Conductor of German Opera' at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, where he was able to play a lead role in establishing Wagner's works firmly within the USA.

The enlightened self-interest Wagner had displayed in supporting Seidl (offering him what turned out to be an influential post at Bayreuth, giving him opportunities to develop his musical talent and kick starting his conducting career through personal recommendation) had paid handsome and long-lasting dividends. 

Wagner had found and helped develop a skilled, influential and trusted champion for his new and innovative music dramas.

All new innovations and innovators need skilled, influential and trusted champions. These do not usually appear out of thin air. If we want our new ideas and innovations to be successful and embed themselves within people's minds and lives we need, like Wagner, to not only seek out potential champions but also unswervingly support their long-term growth and development.

Applying enlightened self-interest will help you gain interest and enlighten.            

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