Or: Why ’80s Pop Bowie Is Better than ’70s Glam Bowie
David Bowie is one of the most important musicians in my personal pantheon. And I’ve always liked the pop music he made in the 1980s better than the glam rock that made him famous in the 1970s.
I’ve spent a lot of time trying to define why I like ’80s Bowie better than I ever liked ’70s Bowie. Part of it is because I’m a child of the ’80s and that’s the pop music I grew up on. But there’s more to it than just that. And it leads me to an interesting insight into the nature of ideational work.
Our modern culture prioritizes innovation to the point of fetishizing it. Because of this, we assign the greatest value to people who can come up with new ideas. This is an immensely valuable skill.
But it’s not the only skill necessary for us to do our best ideation work.
I’ve known people who weren’t any good at coming up with new ideas but who were brilliant at exploring the ideas of others. They can take your idea and discover potential in it you never saw. They can develop your idea into something better than you ever envisioned.
I’ve known people who were geniuses at connecting ideas together. They can take your idea and match it to some other idea you never would have thought related, and together these ideas become better than anything you imagined.
To borrow from the language of copyright law: There’s original work and transformative work. Some people are brilliant at doing the transformative work even if they’re not skilled at doing original work.
This sort of exploration and development work is as important as the work of coming up with new ideas. This is the work that transforms ideas into their best possible versions.