The hit Broadway musical Hamilton tells the remarkable life story of the polymath, founding father, Alexander Hamilton. The story covers the dramatic highs and lows of a soldier, statesman and scholar. Taking in revolution, backroom deals, scandal, blackmail and death in a duel.
Some argue that historically it’s a stretch. Few argue that artistically it is brilliant. Let’s unpick some of the interwoven innovative elements into a clickbaity list titled with lyrics of the show. Five things we should all try, do and support others with.
1. This is not a moment. It’s the movement
Hamilton is a potential game-changer. The kind of innovation that could redefine what comes next. It does this by breaking down the walls between the traditional and the new. Doing what was essential not what was expected. The result is more open, more accessible, more representative, more inclusive, more relevant.
Hamilton is not beholden to tradition. But it does draw inspiration from it. And combines it healthily with more contemporary influences. The outcome moves the line between the two. It brings musical theatre establishment and popular entertainment together. It empowers people to think differently.
It’s not “how things are usually done”. (People can cling to convention too much.) The vision Hamilton delivered shifted conversations. It became a vehicle to open people's eyes about many kinds of entrenchment both in the process and the outputs. A carefully thought-through fusion of old and new.
Modern platforms, professions and products offer opportunities to foster creative collaboration. The combination bring possibilities that previously didn’t exist or were prohibitively expensive or difficult. There are huge opportunities to bring together traditional thinking with current practices.
Be bold. Respect, blend and enhance traditional thinking with new ways. Be inventive. Bring people together to evolve your craft.
2. You want a revolution? I want a revelation
Part of Hamilton’s runaway success is due to how it presents the narrative. It narrows the distance between contemporary audiences and a story that may not be relatable or interesting to them. It does this by being inclusive. It gives the opportunity to people to change how they consider things. The result is engagement and education for all audiences.
The filmed version of Hamilton is available for more people to experience than ever could have seen it performed live. But removing barriers to access does not necessarily equal engagement. The show was consciously cast to represent what the world looks like now. The narrative was framed around contemporary references and styles of songs. It was framed to include new audiences and educate traditional ones.
Teams need to be actively built to include a societally representative range of views, values, approaches and experience. These are critical to ensure the subtly needed to help balance conclusions and interpretations that may susceptible to dangerous imbalance.
Depending on your experiences or perspectives, many things can easily feel like unrelatable otherness. Abstract in content, culture, purpose and value. When working in collaboration all sides should think and act inclusively. This gets both engagement and education.
Be an ally. Act to help people engage and learn. Empower the right role models in your mission. Encourage and seek reverse mentoring.
3. Planting seeds in a garden you never get to see
Hamilton was not an overnight phenomenon. It took around seven years to write. One of the songs took a year alone. This needs strength of vision and strategy. You can’t afford to rush things that take time. Creative and foundational processes need precision and attention to detail. The result is a quality product built on strong foundations.
Hamilton layers detail and nuance to craft an output with both intrinsic and extrinsic value. It brought change and can instigate further change. This type of transformative activity needs careful planning. Significant thinking and iteration over time.
Treading new ground needs careful, considered steps based on detailed investigation. This has to be taken seriously to fully understand the necessities and obstacles to success. Knowing where you need to get to, coupled with high-quality research, brings a clear course of action. However. Be open about plans. The minimum viable Hamilton was validated and iterated upon.
An ambitious vision usually needs wide-reaching changes in culture, attitudes and values. This needs understanding and commitment from all concerned. Both to the vision and the overall long-term value being delivered. This needs a solid strategy, openness, resilience and respect for foundations.
Be a pioneer. Have high standards. Do your research thoroughly. Involve the right people. Trust your research. Map a route. Iterate. Be open.
4. History has its eyes on you
Hamilton presents opportunities for change and to think differently. It does this by inspiring challenging conversations. The casting decisions constitute an important step in inclusivity. The road from stage to studio a move forward in affordability and accessibility. The contemporary resonance attracted audiences beyond those who typically would be paying attention. The result is those in positions of power now need to assume responsibility.
Hard work and passion went into building and iterating a unique approach. It can provide challenge to some legacy attitudes. But changing culture in a sustainable and scalable way becomes an uphill battle without wider support in the room where it happens.
Most institutions organise themselves to give representation to similar sorts of voices for decision making. This can lead to conscious inaction through unconscious value attribution. Such environments make it difficult to see beyond represented views and systemic behaviour. They also make it easy to abdicate responsibility for standing up to this. Opportunities can be missed.
Shifting ethos and values is incredibly difficult. But those in a position to redesign opportunities must do so in order to sincerely support culture shift. For many things in life, it’s not enough to be neutral anymore. Standing for something must mean standing against something too. Certain activities, strategies and behaviours must be supported to become a priority. To take advantage of or build potential and momentum.
Assume responsibility. Be self-aware and act accordingly. Put people ahead of power. Share the power you have. Use your share to lead by example.
5. Rise up!
Hamilton is the product of dozens of individual, specifically chosen and often unconventional, moving parts. This needs structure and self-belief. Connecting a matrix of seemingly disparate reference points to create something that feels part of an authentic whole. The result is a technical masterpiece.
The creator of Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda believed so much in his vision that he thought it must already exist. “I Googled ‘Alexander Hamilton hip-hop musical’ and totally expected to see that someone had already written it. But no. So I got to work.”
“All I wanted to do is write the best musical I could. Full stop.”
You can’t wholly control the success of a thing. But you can set out to create something true to a set of challenging goals. The result could be a potential paradigm shift. There are no guarantees. But if you don’t put in the work, no one is going to do it for you.
Be respectfully defiant when needed. Know when to be audacious or tenacious. Back yourself. Have integrity. Be aware of the shadow you cast.
So there you have it. Be bold. Be an ally. Be a pioneer. Assume responsibility. Be respectfully defiant when needed.
None of this is about transforming how things are. It’s just about moving closer to how things should be.
This kid is out!