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Mind at Work: Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton, MVPs and innovation by accretion

a gradual increase or growth by the addition of new layers or parts: “The gradual accumulation of additional layers or matter.”the accretion of sediments in coastal mangroves”

Google and the Cambridge Dictionary

I’ve finally managed to watch Hamilton. I wish it had been live, but the version on Disney+ is still very good – as good as everyone says. Highly recommended.

Lin-Manuel Miranda is clearly a talented guy – but he emphatically didn’t just sit down and smash out a genre-shaking musical. The timeline (thanks wikipedia) goes something like this:

  • 2008: Miranda reads a biography of Alexander Hamilton on holiday and is inspired to write a rap about him…
  • … which he performs at a White House evening of poetry in 2009, after being invited to perform material from his first musical, In the Heights
  • … which evolves into “extended set pieces” (The Hamilton Mixtape) based on a lot of research…
  • … including almost a year working on My Shot, one of the show’s best songs.
  • A workshop production of the show is produced at Vassar College and the New York Stage and Film Powerhouse Theater in 2013…
  • … before being completed and polished further, premiering off-Broadway in a small theater in June 2015…
  • … and becoming an overnight success in August 2015, winning 11 Tony Awards.
  • Hamilton becomes a cultural juggernaut.

Throughout the show, Hamilton sings “I’m not giving away my shot,” at intervals as the stakes get higher for him and for the American revolutionary project, and it could serve as a mantra for the creation of the show: many shots taken, each a kind of minimum-viable-product, which together have added up to a towering show, a giant standing on the shoulders of… little people.

This is innovation by accretion.

I'd love to hear your thoughts and recommended resources...