New School is Old School

June 14, 2011  

I 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. Reimagination is the new new.”

Basically he is suggesting that “reimagining” something old is the latest way to innovate.

But is it? Is “reimagining” 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 reimagination 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, resample, 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, reimagining 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 reimagine the old, at some point you will run out of ideas.

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

Leave a Reply