top of page

What Punk teaches us about Innovation

Vivienne Westwood just passed may she rest in Punk. Another Icon left us. I could almost picture her, right now, causing trobles with her long-time friend and (quite literally) partner in crime Malcolm Maclaren who left us in 2010.

I can see those wild smiles and pairs of eyes irradiate that unique energy they possessed.

Together they simply changed the world.


Well....They simply created Punk in the 1970s.

What’s Punk?

I would truly like for all of you to know... but just to make sure....Punk was trash culture gone avant-garde and/or the avant-garde gone trash, and just as Dada had tried to destroy the institution of art, so the punks seemed bent on destroying the very institution of fashion.

How did they create an artistic movement that changed the world?

Vivienne Westwood was a talented and brave fashion designer who, along with her then-partner Malcolm McClaren, owned a clothing store called Sex on King's Road in London. The store became a a hub for the emerging punk scene, and Westwood and McClaren used it as a platform to promote their radical and rebellious fashion designs.

Westwood's clothing, which featured elements such as safety pins, leather, and graffiti, became associated with the punk movement and helped to define its aesthetic.

In addition to her fashion design work, Westwood was also involved in the punk music scene, and she and McClaren played a key role in promoting punk bands such as the Sex Pistols. (1977's Never Mind the Bollocks should be owned and listened to by every single individual alive on earth).

Why is this important and why am I writing about this on LinkedIn?

Punk was a cultural and artistic movement that emerged in the 1970s, characterized by a DIY ethos, a rejection of mainstream culture, and a embrace of individualism and nonconformity. For many people, punk provided a sense of liberation and empowerment, as it gave them the freedom to express themselves and their ideas in ways that were unconventional and rebellious. Punk also provided a sense of community and belonging for those who felt marginalized or excluded by mainstream society. Through punk music, fashion, and art, people were able to find a voice and a platform for their ideas and to challenge the status quo. In this way, punk helped to set people free by providing them with a space to be themselves and to express their individuality.

So Westwood and Maclaren left us, among other amazing things, with a incredibly powerful framework to drive innovation.

Punk music, with its DIY (do-it-yourself) ethos and emphasis on rejecting mainstream conventions, can teach us a lot about innovation. Here are a few lessons that punk music can offer:

  1. Embrace unconventional approaches: Punk music often challenges traditional musical conventions and encourages artists to experiment with new sounds and approaches. Similarly, innovation often requires thinking outside the box and considering unconventional ideas.

  2. Don't be afraid to take risks: Punk music is often associated with a rebellious, nonconformist attitude, which can involve taking risks and challenging the status quo. In the business world, taking risks is often necessary for innovation, as it allows organizations to try new things and potentially discover new opportunities.

  3. Be Radical: Punk has no time for politics and sugar-coding. Just spit it out. Be radical. Candid. Go straight to the point. Tolerance for failure requires no tolerance for incompetence. Fail fast, fail forward.

  4. Emphasize collaboration and community: Many punk music scenes are characterized by a strong sense of community and collaboration. This can involve musicians working together to create new music and supporting each other's careers. In the business world, collaboration and teamwork are also important for fostering innovation, as it allows people with different skill sets and perspectives to work together and generate new ideas.

  5. Don't be afraid to challenge authority: Punk music often involves a rejection of authority and a desire to challenge the status quo. In the business world, it can be beneficial to challenge traditional ways of doing things and to question assumptions in order to drive innovation.

  6. Embrace failure: Punk music often celebrates failure as a way to learn and grow. In the business world, it is important to embrace failure as a natural part of the innovation process, and to learn from mistakes in order to improve and move forward.

Overall, punk music can teach us that innovation often requires a willingness to challenge conventions, take risks, collaborate with others, and embrace failure as a learning opportunity. By adopting these attitudes, organizations can foster a culture of innovation and drive positive change.

So let me close this with a quote from Vivienne Westwood that should resonate with you....if you have a pulse: "Punk was a way of life. It was about rejecting the status quo and carving out your own path" and isn't this what innovation is about?

Rock on!



bottom of page