‘My Way’ – 3 characters, 5 innovation lessons
‘My Way’ has been translated, adapted, sung by millions. Everything has been said about it, and yet, here is my take on it: a story of three characters and five innovation lessons.
Our first character was Claude François, a French pop singer, who composed a song ‘Comme d’habitude’, meaning ‘As usual’. Although the author of a staggering number of hits throughout the 60s and 70s, François was clearly not at his best with this song. It was too long, not well balanced, and the lyrics are depressing and outright lousy. But, there lies our first innovation lesson: he did it. He did it first, without fear of failure, he went to market, and the product he created would prove later… instrumental.
Enters our second character, Paul Anka, an American composer and singer. While on a vacation in the south of France, Anka heard the song and, later would claim in an interview: ‘I thought it was a bad record, but there was something in it.’ That teaches us innovation lesson #2: observe, listen, feel, pause, and refrain from dismissive judgement. When you come across something new, refrain from categorising it too quickly. Ask yourself: why not? What could we do with this? What could be the pearl in that oyster?
Anka changed his holiday plans and flew to Paris to negotiate the rights to the song. Intellectual Property (IP) is something we can create, but also something we can buy or trade. The important thing is to act on it. Not when we’re about to launch, but as early as possible. Lesson #3: act on IP early on.
Two years later, Anka had a dinner with our third character, Frank Sinatra. Some of Sinatra’s dodgy friends were also attending, and the dinner ended abruptly when Sinatra stormed out saying ‘I’m quitting the business. I’m sick of it. I’m getting the hell out’. That’s what made Anka click. That night, he re-wrote the lyrics thinking of Sinatra’s approach to life: Sinatra had dodgy friends that perhaps were useful to his career, but ultimately he would have it his way. It was two years after that trip to Paris to acquire the IP rights, but at 5 in the morning, the song was finished. Lesson #4: it may take time for the dots to connect, but when they do, act fast. Make it happen overnight.
Anka was a singer himself but he wrote the song for Sinatra to deliver. Anka’s record company caught wind of it and were upset that he had not kept it for himself. But Anka knew that Sinatra was the guy to make My Way a global smashing success. Lesson #5: find the right partners. The important thing is not to invent it here or do it all ourselves. The important thing is to take it to market in a big way, and win.
Daring to create, refraining from dismissive judgement, acting on IP early on, making it happen overnight, finding the right partners and winning together. These are the five lessons from ‘My Way’. Make them your way.