New School is Old School

by Stephen Shapiro

New School is Old SchoolI just finished reading a mindless crime novel* – my favorite genre of book. The victim was the producer of an old television series who recently sold the rights to do a remake of the show.

Fans were outraged. Most were purists who liked the original version and would do anything to prevent the new show…including kill the producer.

The producer of the remake defended the decision to do a new version of an old show. He said…

“New school is old school. It’s too risky for the networks and for the audiences. People are much more comfortable with the familiar. Re-imagination is the new new.”

Basically he is suggesting that “re-imagining” something old is the latest way to innovate.

But is it? Is “re-imagining” the same as innovation?

  • Is remaking a classic television show innovative? “The Twilight Zone” remake, “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” or “America’s Got Talent” (a re-imagination of the “Gong Show”).
  • Is remaking an old song with a new interpretation innovative? Jimi Hendrix covering Bob Dylan’s “All Along The Watchtower” is a classic example.
  • What about sampling an old song in a new song? Eminem sampled Dido’s “Thank You” in his rap, “Stan.” Vanilla Ice sampled Queen’s “Under Pressure” in “Ice Ice Baby.”
  • What about TV spin-offs such as “The Jeffersons” (an “All in the Family” spin-off), “Frasier” (a “Cheers” spin-off), or “Mork and Mindy” (a “Happy Days” spin-off)?
  • Are movie sequels such Hangover 2 (which is awesome, by the way), Father of the Bride 15, or The Fockers movies, innovative?

You get the idea.

Many would argue that these are NOT great examples of innovation. But I beg to differ. Although they may not all be wildly original, that does not mean that they are not innovative.

Innovation is developing anything new that creates substantial value. It does not need to be original or even creative in order for it to be innovative.

If a remake, re-sample, spin-off, or sequel can generate profits, then from my perspective, it is innovative.

It takes innovation to adapt something old to new tastes. It takes creative thinking to develop sequels and spin-offs that are as good as (if not better than) the original. It takes marketing savvy to convince people that they should spend their time and money on something that they have seen before (albeit in another form).

From my perspective, re-imagining is definitely a form of innovation – as long as it creates the intended value.

But of course, not all innovation is simply revamping the old. Adaptive innovation is only one form of innovation.

And equally important: innovation is more than creating a single hit. You need to do it over and over again. Repeatability is key. If you only re-imagine the old, at some point you will run out of ideas.

* Mr. Monk in Outer Space by Lee Goldberg. This book series is a re-imagination of the TV show “Monk.”

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Stephen ShapiroStephen Shapiro is the author of three books, a popular innovation speaker, and is the Chief Innovation Evangelist for Innocentive, the leader in Open Innovation.

No comments

  1. “* Mr. Monk in Outer Space by Lee Goldberg. This book series is a re-imagination of the TV show “Monk.”

    FINALLY someone has noticed what I thought was the cleverest thing about the book…that it was a satire of reimagining an existing franchise in the reimagining of an existing franchise.

    Lee

  2. “as long as it creates the intended value”… There lies the crux of course.

    Secondly, I’m not so sure about the marketing savvy. The producer has a point about the familiar. The latest James Bond or Star Trek reboots for example were done purely to draw two crowds, I think: old fans and new viewers. What slightly surprises (possibly annoys) me about these one is that they don’t even resemble the original in any way, except nominally. They are totally new product(ion)s except for the vintage name tags…

  3. Spiny, thanks for your comment. Your second point was a really one of my points (and I believe Lee’s point)…many of the future installments of franchises don’t resemble the old one. In some cases they can be improvements (I thought Casino Royale was one of the best James Bond films – although I will forever be a Sean Connery fan). But in other situations, the new versions are lame attempts to cash in on the old brand. So, to your point, marketing savvy is not always needed.

    Lee, it is an honor to have you chime in here. I am a bit fan of your writing. And yes, I did notice the irony in that particular book. I thought it was quite clever. For anyone reading this, if you like the Monk TV series, you will love the Mr. Monk book series. Or, as was the case with me, I started reading the books first which then turned me on to the TV show.

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