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As a follow up, or encore if you will, to our previous ABC post, ‘E if for… Expand‘, here are some additional musings from Springfield Director, Rob Hitchins: 

One hit wonders and lessons for scaling up

I often seek out musical analogies that help explain MSD, as my long-suffering trainees will attest.

It is commonly said in music, entertainment and sports that your second album/movie/game is the most difficult. You got something right the first time, but you don’t really appreciate why you were successful, and then you try to do the same thing the second time around. And it fails. Many of the problems that afflict aspiring bands are the same problems that prevent programmes from scaling up successfully:

  • The funky bongo drums weren’t why people bought your first album – it was only you thought that they were cool. You try to reproduce the wrong thing. You’ve not understood the market innovation you introduced or why it worked.
  • You move recording studio, change your band line up… and you lose your mojo. First time around the partnership grew out of your diagnosis; you spent a lot of time pursuing (and understanding) your first partner; your staff involved were the most experienced or creative. When it comes to the second movers you don’t invest in the same way: you don’t do more diagnosis, you don’t understand the new market actor(s), you hand over the intervention to different staff who don’t have the same ability, market insights or connections to actors.
  • The audience changes, but your sound doesn’t. The market system is dynamic. The hook that worked for your first partner might not apply or appeal to other market actors. They’re different, you need to find different entry points and adjust your offer.
  • Other bands envy your success and don’t want their fans to come to your ‘Save the World’ concert. Promoters and the media say that you are derivative has-beens, and that K-Pop is the future. When a programme works too intensively with one market actor, for too long or with too a high profile, it can make it difficult to engage subsequent movers. Other market actors don’t want to work with you because they perceive you to be captured by a partner. We don’t need to get married to a market partner: in the best traditions of rock ‘n’ roll relationships need to be short term – but meaningful. The evidence or demonstration effects we generate don’t need to be high-profile and covered in logos. We shouldn’t get too deep into the proprietary aspects of an innovation but focus instead on its ‘developmental’ aspects.

Getting to scale isn’t as “easy as 1, 2, 3”, as The Jackson 5 would have it. More likely than not, you’re going to “get knocked down, but… get up again” like one-hit wonder Chumbawumba. Achieving scale, like longevity in the music industry, requires perseverance, talent, reinvention, connections, grit… and luck.

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