Bob Dylan and the Power of Reinvention


New years is in the rear view, and your “resolution” may be too–but it’s never to late to reinvent!

As a construction company we help to empower organizations focused on creativity, wellness, and community improvement by building beautifully functional spaces along with our colleagues in the architecture, engineering and real estate professions.  With that in mind, we can all learn a thing or two from observing and listening to the 2016 Nobel Prize Winner in Literature, Bob Dylan.

bob dylan reinvention

Above all, Dylan’s history shows that he’s unfailingly been on the forefront of the music industry and prepared for change every step of the way. Now 75 years old this continues to be true.

While not everyone may be a fan, Dylan has consistently demonstrated one of his tools for success—reinvention. Whatever your professional arena may be, Dylan’s powerful ability to reinvent can be a source of inspiration, learning, and change for us all.


Born Robert Zimmerman in Duluth, Minnesota, Bob Dylan was deeply inspired by the music of Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly, and Elvis Presley as a youngster. At the age of 18, the determined Zimmerman made his first trip to New York City to sharpen his folk-singing skills under his new moniker, Bob Dylan. Armed with his new name, a guitar, and a distinct voice, Dylan was able to hone his abilities enough to set NYC’s Greenwich Village ablaze and release his first major-label album at the age of 21.

This example alone demonstrates that from an early age Dylan was prepared to sacrifice time, effort, and even his surname for the sake of his dream. Let’s take a look at three things Bob Dylan can teach us for improvement in the professional and personal arenas:

Defining Your Space

Since he began his “Never Ending Tour” in 1988 (at the age of 47!) Dylan has played more than 2,500 concerts, averaging about 100 per year. To date he has over 500 officially published songs on upwards of 35 studio albums (with at least one genre-defining album in every decade since the 1960’s).

To say that the man has worked hard to establish himself is an understatement.

So how has Dylan stayed relevant and what can we learn from him (apart from the value of a monstrous work ethic)? Most of all, Dylan has defined his space in the arts.

bob dylan reinvention

Paramount to his peers, Dylan is responsible for bringing a social consciousness to the lyricism of popular music at a time when Elvis, The Beatles, and The Ronnettes were singing typical love and party song themes of the day (however great they may be).

Tapping into the social unrest of the 1960’s, Bob Dylan penned poetic classics such as “Masters of War” and “Blowin’ in The Wind” in the same year that The Beatles released “Twist and Shout” and “Love Me Do”; truly a remarkable insertion of social commentary and intellectualism into the mainstream popular music of the day.

But let’s take a minute to bring this back to the built environment. Finding a niche within your market like Rollman Architecture’s  penchant for creating “spaces where aesthetic and commerce cohabitate” (see fashion designer Tory Burch’s corporate offices) or Loci Architecture’s  dedication to improving the spaces in which our future leaders learn (such as Brooklyn Prospect Charter School) have a real impact on the trajectory of the arts, humanities, and business world.

In a similar sense Frank Lloyd Wright occupied an analogous space as Dylan in the world of architecture, filling six full decades with great architectural structures from residences, to skyscrapers and museums. Indeed Frank Lloyd Wright summed up the connection between himself and Dylan quite accurately when he said, “Every great architect is – necessarily – a great poet. He must be a great original interpreter of his time, his day, his age”. Indeed Frank Lloyd Wright and Bob Dylan were not that different from one another!

Utilizing Team Work & Collaboration

Fast forward to 1976. At this point it was clear that Dylan had mastered the art of reinvention—incorporating electric guitar into his music (a radical departure at the height of his finger pickin’ acoustic days ), writing “Like a Rolling Stone”, and starring in successful films like Pat Garret and The Kid.

bob dylan reinventionComing off of the definitive album Blood on the Tracks, Dylan released a follow-up classic, Desire. Filled with great content, led by the popular song “Hurricane”, and honed through a consistent lyrical collaboration with Jacques Levy, a screenwriter and clinical psychologist.

While no stranger to collaboration (Dylan had previously worked with Joan Baez, The Band, and George Habob dylan reinventionrrison to name a few) this was a remarkable journey into a creative partnership with another species of writer. The result was a much more linear, thematic, and story-lined work with a similar thread running through the subsequent live shows.

With another era of recreation under his belt, Dylan proved that intensive collaboration is often the key to success, and knowing the right time to call on those resources is even more powerful.

In the business world, innovative organizations like Google have harnessed this power to generate some of the world’s most forward-thinking ideas, even down to their own office design. At Talisen we aim to emulate this in our approach to construction, collaborating with great clients, architects, and CRE individuals who are all interested in similar concepts of teamwork.


Embolden Your Image

Whether conscious of it or not, Bob Dylan has a reputation for being one of the most mysterious, notorious, and romanticized figures in music and pop culture. From folk singer, to rock, country, and even gospel, Dylan has transformed himself many times over in response to the nature of the times.

bob dylan reinvention

In fact, the mysticism continues to this day, with many on the Nobel Committee unsure if Dylan will show up to his accept his prize after several weeks of not being able to get in touch with him (update: he’s planning on it, but can’t make it for the originally planned date).

After several personal reinventions in a journey to get his message out, Dylan has played with his “brand” perhaps more than any other musician of his stature, an idea any company (or individual) can harness to boost their stature in their particular industry.

In 2017  pay attention to your surroundings and harness the potential for recreation your brand, whether it be a brand new office space or changing the color on the walls. A fresh perspective, image, or inspiration can guide you in developing a new position in the marketplace with more opportunities for collaboration to become a leader in your industry, whatever that may be.

At Talisen we are intent on advocating for our clients to produce a superior product. Focused on safety, ethics, and high quality work, we stand out as a true collaborator; turning visions into reality is what we do. Follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter for more quotes, ideas, and inspirations from our architectural, design, and cultural heroes.