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“A sky full of stars” – or what Coldplay & the Olympics can teach us about innovation!

Coldplay-global-citizen-festival-india-2016

“A Sky Full of Stars” – so sang Chris Martin on Coldplay’s 2014 global smash hit. 

When I first heard it, I wondered if, somewhat tongue in-cheek, Chris and the guys had made a rather clever reference back to their ground breaking 2012 Mylo Xylto World Tour,  writes CIO Adrian Wakefield.

For those of you who don’t much care for Coldplay, and there are one or two, this tour was remembered for its stunning audio-visual effects. Literally a sky full of stars, which transformed each member of the audience into a participant in the show.    

Back in early 2012, as each concert goer entered the arenas on that tour, they were given a small wrist band. Nothing unusual in that for a major stadium concert, but what made the Xyloband so special, was what was hiding inside it – several light emitting diodes and a wireless transmitter.

At a certain moment during the concert the technology was fired up and literally pulsed a rainbow of lights in perfect rhythm with the music.

Suddenly every single member of the throbbing pulsing crowd was even more closely connected with their heroes, each one part of the show, delivering an unforgettable experience for every single member of the audience.

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Anyone I know who went to one of those concerts was absolutely transfixed by the spectacle and news of the innovative approach spread like wild fire….

… and only a few short months later, at the London 2012 Summer Olympic Games, a projected global television audience estimated at up to 3.6 billion people* were mesmerised as the whole stadium pulsed in a dazzling display that adapted Coldplay’s innovative technology and placed it at the heart of the opening & closing ceremonies.

As a technologist whose work has been focussed on business transformation, I found myself asking what was it that had earned Coldplay such trust from their fans in the first place AND had allowed them a platform to deliver something so truly innovative?

To get to the answer I knew we needed to examine the two key components making up this intriguing question; the Xyloband and Coldplay themselves. 

At first, when the spark of ignition that drove them to become a world class act, was first ignited, Coldplay would have struggled even with just the basics; the notes, the chords, the progressions, their musical infrastructure if you prefer. And just like our work in technology, they first had to lay down this fundamental infrastructure upon which to build their craft.

With these basics under their belts, Coldplay began work developing what would become the engine room of their business; their creative processes; writing songs, performing gigs and making their first recordings. In building technology for businesses, it is these core processes that underpin their performance and often define what many of our organisations do for their customers.

Today thousands of fans around the world would have no hesitation in telling you Coldplay are quite simply excellent. And in business & technology once you’ve put in place the fundamentals, our journey to excellence follows Coldplay’s path. Focussing on the processes and performing reliably in front of your audience time and time again.

… But something was still puzzling me about the Xyloband itself; it seemed so simple… after all it was only a few LEDs and an RFID circuit held together by a nylon band. After all, there was nothing special about these pretty ordinary technologies in isolation…

And then it struck me…

… that real innovation was quite simply the unique application of robust technologies, focussed on your customers and designed to deliver truly memorable experiences.   

And just like Coldplay, once your customers really trust you, they will give you the platform upon which you can be truly innovative.

About the author:

Adrian Wakefield is Managing Director of Transforming IT. Built on 25 years experience designing and delivering technology enabled transformation in global engineering, construction & manufacturing organisations, Transforming IT develops and aligns business and IT strategies, shaping organisations, creating teams and inspiring individuals.

“I love what I do. By focussing on the people aspects at the heart of the technology, I build great relationships, know how to get things done and I am often able to make a difference in complex and challenging circumstances,” Wakefield says.

Being results-driven and commercially focused Wakefield has a proven track record in delivering on-going business value at the C-level.

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