Biz lit abounds with stories of the “reality distortion field” of Apple Co-founder Steve Jobs, who could make his engineers—and customers—believe anything was possible, including products developed with incredible features, in unheard-of time frames, with no market competition.
Often enough, Jobs and his teams of software and hardware engineers delivered on these "impossible" goals. This, in part, is how Apple became the world’s most admired company.
It turns out that there was also a musical team known for its reality distortion field: The Beatles, who had a similar relationship to the engineers they worked with, beginning with the groundbreaking Revolver and Sgt Pepper albums. They could make their recording engineers believe that any barrier could be broken.
Years later Paul McCartney observed:
If we hadn't pushed [the recording engineers] the guys would have stuck by the rule books and still been wearing ties...The nice thing about the way we worked was there were never any rules. Any rules we found ourselves making we would generally try and break.
One of the Beatles’ engineers, Phil McDonald, confirmed the sentiment:
There’s one thing they always used to say. 'There’s no such word as can’t. What do you mean can’t?' The word just wasn’t in their vocabulary. There was always a way around any problem. If they had an idea—any idea—they thought it must be possible to do it. That’s how Sgt. Pepper’s was recorded.
But the Beatles' RDF wasn't limited to their recording sessions. Just like Steve Jobs was telling his colleagues—years before the release of the first Macintosh—that Apple was going to make a "dent in the universe," the early Beatles—while they were playing lunchtime concerts for chump change in the sweatbox of Liverpool's Cavern Club—were laying plans to be "bigger than Elvis."
In both cases this was not predicting the future. This was creating the future. And everyone who stepped into that reality distortion field was caught up in that future.
No wonder Steve Jobs loved The Beatles and named his company after the Fab Four’s Apple Records. (He once remarked, "My model for business is The Beatles.") The world’s most admired brand has been operating in the same alternative reality as the world’s most admired band.
For an earlier post on the Beatles' "bigger than Elvis" goal, check here.