Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Lessons from Wagner about innovation: 1. let others name it

The term 'leitmotiv' describes a theme or motif, either melodic or harmonic, which is associated with a particular character, feeling or event within a Wagner music drama. Interestingly and significantly, this term was not promoted by Wagner but primarily by one of his supporters, Hans von Wolzogen.

Wolzogen's contribution was small but not insignificant. He has been remembered over the centuries for this one influential word, which has enabled Wagner's music and ideas to poke through into people's everyday language: 'leitmotiv' has become a widely used term for describing anything of significance that recognisably recurs over time.

When people can take hold of an idea, analyse it and then give names to the things they find there, they begin to gain some feeling of investment in and ownership of it, which motivates them to explain, champion and support it using their own words, labels and terminology. This enables them to communicate their meaning in a committed, clear, accurate and understandable way: a way that those on the receiving end can easily appreciate and assimilate into their thinking and practice.

So, allow others to analyse your idea on their own terms and use their own terms to describe what they find. 

And watch your idea recur, spread and develop amongst them.

(To read more posts in this series go to the July, August and September 2016 Blog Archive.)

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