Is it time for us to put on Gorilla suits?

Carmen dressed as a monkey

Embracing change requires discernment, patience… and knowing when it’s right to wear a gorilla suit

By Peter Foy

Recently I wrote about attending the Neil Young and Bob Dylan concert in Hyde Park. In that piece I voiced my disappointment at Dylan’s reinterpretation of one of his songs, Like a Rolling Stone, and contrasted it with Neil Young's faithful recreation of his greatest hits.

The day after the concert I took another dip into London's cultural scene with a visit to the Royal Opera House to see Bizet's Carmen. I am not going to write a review of that experience, but I will share with you three brief observations.

  1. The singing was sublime
  2. The orchestra was magnificent
  3. Carmen made her first appearance on stage dressed in a gorilla suit
    There is a balancing act between embracing innovation and maintaining stability.  

Yup, that's right: she was dressed as a gorilla. Now, you don't have to be an opera buff to know that this is not a normal costume for the role. Barrie Kosky has re-imagined a staple of the opera canon, shaking up a number of traditionalists along the way, in the same way that Dylan re-imagined his own work in the previous day's concert.

This got me thinking about when we should be sticking with the tried and tested and when is it time to introduce some disruption. Not just in the arts but also in the business world.An orchestra

We are witnessing unprecedented change in the commercial arena. The retail sector's retreat from the High Street. Crypto-currencies challenging the very core of traditional business models. Artificial Intelligence potentially heralding the advent of a new industrial revolution. Brexit, Climate Change, the rise of Populism. The list gets longer by the day.

During the 40-year span of my professional life I have seen jobs that once provided work for millions completely disappear. Other technologies, and the employment opportunities they created, have emerged, blossomed and then withered away. The pace of change has been fast and is accelerating. At the same time there have been some solid bastions of the economy that remain a constant, a steadying counterpoint to the innovators.

I have witnessed the world's stock markets seduced by the promise of new technologies only to crash, Icarus like, back to earth: the dot com bubble of the 1990s became the dot com crash of 2000-2002.

There needs to be a balancing act between embracing innovation and maintaining a stable economy. It's an issue that's as old as the hills; think of the South Sea Bubble of 1720 or the Railway Mania of the 1840s. Investors have always seen the advent of a new idea as a way of making a quick buck. Sometimes it works. Often it ends in tears.

Innovation has always been the locomotive of history and change is inevitable. I may not be ready for a gorilla in my favourite opera, but I'm prepared to embrace change. It is all about balance, discernment on the part of those making decisions about the best course of action, and patience.

I leave the final word to a poet from 1960s:

"...don't criticise
What you can't understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is rapidly agin'
Please get out of the new one
If you can't lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin'"

I wonder what became of that wise prophet...

© 2019 Just Recruitment Group Ltd

Published on 18 June 2019

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