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6 Lessons in Innovation and Entrepreneurship from Matilda The Musical

I confess that I am a musical tragic and one Saturday took my daughter to see Matilda The Musical. Throughout the performance I found myself relating the tale to my work in innovation and entrepreneurship.

In 2000, struggling to make a living from theatre and music, and fascinated by the work of Roald Dahl, Tim Minchen wrote to Dahl’s manager asking for the rights to Matilda so he could write ‘the musical’ for an amateur theatre company. He was asked to send a sample of his score so Dahl’s team could consider his request. Stunned he had actually received a response, Minchen deleted the email but thankfully not the idea. Fast-forward to 2008 when he wrote the songs for Matilda over a seven-week period.

Lesson number one is never kill an idea, just park it. You never know when you might resurrect it. And lesson number two, in the words of Richard Branson, “Next time opportunity knocks, just say yes".

Matilda faces the incorrigible Miss Trunchbull to realize her dreams. Miss Trunchbull instills fear and commands that Matilda “stay inside the circle”. In business, we know it is the lack of empowerment and unwavering rules that inhibit creativity and stifle innovation. Lesson number three, don’t choke the people around you by locking them in physically or metaphorically. Encourage experimentation and new experiences.

Lesson four is to ‘keep it real’. Matilda boldly claims, “Just because you think that life’s not fair it doesn’t mean that you just have to grin and bare it”. We are each responsible for our actions. Clients, employees, and business owners are thankfully demanding authenticity. Be respectful, be considerate and certainly don’t stand by when you know something is “not right”.


With the current focus on women around the globe, including the #metoo campaign, my ‘inner voice’ cheered each time Matilda emphasized, “I’m a girl”. Lesson five, it is inspiring to see so much support and recognition for women as they take on entrepreneurial roles and step into the innovation space, particular in tech, engineering and medicine.

Finally lesson six, you get what you pay for. At $150 a ticket we had an amazing experience. If you are going to invest in yourself, don’t short sheet your business and cut corners. If it’s worth doing, do it believing you cannot fail.

A final word from the star of the show, “Sometimes you have to be a little bit naughty”. Let’s face it, is there an entrepreneur who has never challenged or broken rules?

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