Rebellion leads to magical results

What do Spider-Man, Bohemian Rhapsody, and Ikea have in common? They almost didn’t exist, writes innovation expert Simone van Neerven. Fortunately, the inventors were rebellious go-getters. ‘Groundbreaking innovations often require a healthy dose of courage.’

Bohemian Rhapsody broke all the rules

When Freddy Mercury proudly presented Bohemian Rhapsody to his producers, they were anything but enthusiastic. The song completely differed from all the other songs of that time. The song had no chorus and it was six minutes long, way longer than all successful pop songs that were just three to four minutes long. It also contained no fewer than five different musical styles, including opera. And so the producers refused to release it.

But Mercury was convinced this was a good song and called his good friend and radio DJ Kenny Everett. He asked him to play the song on the radio over the weekend to find out how the public would respond to it. They immediately loved it and went en masse to the music stores on Monday to buy it. This convinced the producers to release the song after all. Today Bohemian Rhapsody is one of the most streamed songs of the last century.

Spider-Man almost did not come to life

Stan Lee, the spiritual father of Spider-Man, also initially did not receive any cooperation from his publisher of the monthly magazine Amazing Fantasy. When asked to come up with a new superhero after the success of ‘X-Men’ and ‘The Fantastic Four’, he thought that the new superhero should be able to move quickly and flexibly, for example like a spider.

But his publisher didn’t like this at all: “Stan, this is seriously the worst idea I’ve ever heard”. He believed that people hate spiders. He also didn’t like the idea that a teenager with personal problems would be a superhero. Back then, teenagers were always the sidekick but never the superhero themselves. And personal problems weren’t befitting a superhero.

Lee didn’t push any further. After a while, due to a lack of success, it was decided to stop the monthly magazine. Because Lee still believed in Spider-Man, he published the story in the very last issue and put him on the cover as well. When the sales figures came in, it turned out to be a great success. They decided to make a series out of it, and today everyone in the world knows the superhero.

Don't despair and follow your gut

If Mercury and Lee hadn’t taken matters into their own hands, Bohemian Rhapsody and Spider-Man would never have existed. All too often innovation is held back by the establishment, often due to a lack of empathy for the new idea. It is so far beyond imagination that its potential is overlooked. Both examples show the power of following your ‘gut feeling’ and having the guts to try out an idea to see what happens.

Dare to go off the beaten track

It also shows that it takes a good dose of guts to persevere in the face of opposition. When Ingmar Kamprad, the founder of IKEA, started, he encountered a lot of resistance from other Swedish furniture manufacturers. They blocked him to exhibit his furniture at the annual major furniture shows. Instead of giving up, Kamprad opened a warehouse in the Swedish countryside. People could come to explore the showcased furniture and order from a list. This is how IKEA’s world-famous ‘concept store’ came about.

Elon Musk also received a lot of opposition when, in 2002, he founded SpaceX as the first commercial organization to launch rockets into space. The US Air Force refused SpaceX to launch from a base in California. Musk diverted to the island of Omelek, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. There was an old military base from where he could freely launch missiles. In just four years, SpaceX launched five rockets. Although three of them failed miserably, they did provide very valuable information to improve the technology.

Rebellion needed

Innovative ideas often seem completely idiotic at first and are rarely welcomed with open arms. They go so far beyond imagination that, most of the time, they are rejected immediately. However, often these ideas are the very beginning of breakthrough innovations. So, when you have an idea like that, it takes a good dose of rebelliousness to persevere.

This article has been translated from its original version, which was originally published in Dutch on MT/SPROUT.

This article was originally published in Dutch on MT/Sprout, the most popular business and management platform in the Netherlands.

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