Written by Roger Jackson,
October 07th, 2020 | Views

What Van Halen’s “Jump” teaches us about business

Van Halen. Jump. Great Song. One of the greatest. But what does it teach us about business?

More than you’d think!

Let me explain. Bear with me (by the way it helps to listen along for full value for money).

At the get go, it’s like a start-up company. It has to punch through and get attention with an innovation that immediately exciting. That’s the main chord sequence, the riff that starts up on its own and then, with the bass (the bank) and the drums (the delivery team) continues throughout. Call that the business mission, the DNA. Without, that foundation there would be no Jump.

Then Eddie starts the vocals. This in our model is the sales team. Hired to deliver the mission, to give clients value, to build engagement and revenue. Our business is now fully complete, and off it goes.

The song continues. Verse two, verse three, a full two minutes of steady performance, good repetitive work, delivering the original promise. Nice job. Everyone is happy. But then something happens.

Too many small businesses never become truly great. They stay in their comfort zone. Doing the same thing over and over. This is not for Van Halen.

At 2.17, in kicks the guitar solo. This is an innovation. Same keys, same theme but wow, it completely changes the game (well, the song). All the customers we can tell, now get their air guitars out and join in.

Once the new riff is over, the whole song from that point on is different. It’s matured. Different key, different instrumentation. Now it’s no longer like the early verses were, now its flying. You’ll notice, I’m sure, that provoked by the guitar the keyboard joins in. Not happy with what it had been doing, it too is now riffing into a much more dramatic space.

Innovation is like that – it spurs everyone to think differently. Harvard Business Review would call this “take off”.

3 minutes in, and the track takes a breather. What’s going on? Time to assess. Did the NPD work? Is our capital funding adequate? Is our team burning out? Can we maintain the momentum? Should we go back to our roots, should we keep it simple or is there enough of a market for new, bigger “Jump”? At 3.20 we get our answers.

Of course, there is. New Jump kicks off. We never lost our original mission, it was always there except now we are delivering it in a way we never thought possible.

Just to emphasize this point about how Jump can evolve: right at the end, the second new product kicks in. One that frankly could have come in at 1 minute not at 3.30 – the guitar counter melody. My only question to Van Halen, is why did they stop there? Harvard Business Review calls it ‘resource maturity’. Jump will live for all time.

As the great Van Halen teaches us, in business we never need to stop innovating or changing. Yes, we need to find our core (and great) product, and deliver it well – but don’t wait until your own 2.17 let alone your 3.30 to find out what you could really be doing for your customers.

Hey, and that’s why we launched our new in-store measurement system. We don’t want to stay good. We want to be truly great.

Did I miss anything here? What did you learn from Van Halen?

P.S. Best wishes to his family.