From Competitive Advantage to Collaborative Advantage

The last 100 years of business wisdom in the West has been dominated by the notion of Competitive Advantage, whereby a company or enterprise develops a product or a set of capabilities that confers some kind of unique advantage versus its competitors, ideally over an extended period of time. The concept was championed by Michael Porter via his tomes, “Competitive Advantage” and “The Competitive Advantage of Nations”. Essentially Porter’s theory is Charles Darwin for business people. Here’s an account of our recent evolution from the agrarian through the industrial to the information age.  It is not clear from this infographic whether intelligence has increased …

If Dinosaurs ruled the Earth ...

If Dinosaurs ruled the Earth …

It’s time we moved to the notion of Collaborative Advantage in a joined up world. Innovation is now so complex that it is rare for the capabilities and intelligence required to convert a new idea into a sustainable business, product or service to reside within one individual or discipline. Alongside this, the impact of our actions on the world has become correspondingly greater and we must therefore look to collaboration as a tool if we are to have a chance of making the world a better place.

But, it’s not easy. As with Darwin’s ideas about competition, the human condition tends to place emphasis on looking after number one as a priority, especially when under pressure. So voluntary activity is necessary but not sufficient to achieve the required changes. On the positive side, some companies are taking the lead in setting the conditions where collaboration is seen to be a better option than going it alone:

Unilever are at the forefront of innovation through collaboration, offering incentives for individuals to come up with ingenious ideas. So too are many small entrepreneurial start up businesses, assisted by crowdfunding. It really is possible to be small and global now. I wrote recently about the power of Collaboration for Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Entrepreneur blog. Read the piece here at Collaboration and Crowdfunding.

At a personal level, I was recently invited to give a guest keynote and collaborative musical experience at Henley Business School. Collaborating with people and organisations that you don’t own or control is a completely different animal compared with the traditional organisation model and it requires a completely different type of leadership. I am delighted to be associated with an institution that understands the difference and designs it into their Executive Education programmes.

We were blessed to have a guest appearance from Patti Russo, Meatloaf’s long term female singing partner. I’ve been working with Patti to develop the next stage of her career and she kindly agreed to come along as a special guest. Patti is a living, breathing example of someone who has collaborated with some of the biggest egos on Planet Earth. She performs with much of rock’s royalty including Cher, Queen and in the theatre with the LA version of “We Will Rock You”. A magical moment was when we launched into “Dead Ringer for Love” during the live performance part of the evening. The entire audience of leaders stood up to salute her! I was also privileged to do an acoustic “aftershow” with Patti in the bar at Henley, where we performed “You can’t always get what you want” and “I would do anything for love”, which included some great delegate collaboration.

I would do anything for love - with Patti Russo and Masterclass at Henley Business School

I would do anything for love – with Patti Russo and Masterclass at Henley Business School – Click the picture to book Patti for a unique experience

I’m also delighted to have been invited to join a global collaboration with Nadine Hack for a more sustainable business world. Nadine’s contribution to finding joined up solutions to complex world problems is unparalleled and she has started this network to continue and accelerate her work.

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Nadine Hack – Leader of a Global Network for a more sustainable world – click on the picture to find out more

Action Points

  • Competitive Advantage must be matched with Collaborative Advantage
  • Collaboration is easy to say but runs counter to many people’s DNA, so we must work hard at it
  • The internet can facilitate enterprise through collaboration via crowdfunding. See Sir Richard Branson’s articles on Collaboration Virgin.com for more on this
  • Leaders can learn to collaborate if they choose to. Please get in touch with Nadine Hack or myself to discuss collaborative leadership

To finish, here’s a song from Patti that literally sums up idea of being “under pressure”:

This Time, It’s Personnel

Today marks the release of a book of blogs edited by David D’Souza, which has been crowdsourced and which I contributed a chapter to, courtesy of Ian Davidson, who originally connected me to the enterprise. “Humane Resourced” was the first book in the series and this one “This Time, It’s Personnel” builds on the success of volume I. The book is initially available at a bargain price of £2.59 and all proceeds go to charities chosen by the authors, after Amazon have taken their wedge.

This Time It's Personnel - Click to buy the book on Amazon

This Time, It’s Personnel – Click to buy the book on Amazon

This Time, It’s Personnel contains 70 articles featuring many of the leading HR protagonists I have come to know on Twitter, such as Kim Patterson, Ian Pettigrew, Amanda Sterling, Kate Griffiths Lambeth, Ryan Cheyne, Kandy Woodfield, Anne Tynan, Nicola Barber, Simon Arrowsmith, Robert Ordever, Gemma Ruecroft, Malcolm Louth, Jo Dodds, Tim Scott, Perry Timms, Amanda Sterling, Sukh Pabial, Tash Peiterse, David D’Souza himself and Ian Davidson, to name a few.

For my part I’ve written an article for the book again. This time it is a sober analysis of HR Strategy and how that should be connected to the business and tied to behaviour at ground floor level. Last time I wrote of disruptive innovation in HR via the medium of Punk Rock, a notion which I explored with Peter Cheese, CEO of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) the other week. I am myself an FCIPD (Fellow, now Former member), having left the institute because I felt it had become too inward looking and that some HR functions lack focus on the businesses that HR serves. I must say I was impressed with Peter’s input at the event I attended on the subject of recognition the other week and am reconsidering the CIPD as a result.

So grab yourself a copy of the book and help a charity whilst it is just £2.59.

Speaking of Humane Resources, I’m meeting Patti Russo later today – Patti has performed with Meatloaf for 20 years, Cher, Queen, in the Las Vegas production of “We Will Rock You” and many others. I was deeply impressed at how she has handled her dealings with people over this time in the highly pressured and ego ridden environment that is Rock’n’Roll. She is a shining example of ethical HR practice in an industry that is not renowned for such things and I’m proud to be working with her. I know David D’Souza has also faced many challenges ensuring the production of the book, including the death of his mum, but he has quite literally made sure that “the show must go on”. This song by Patti is for him to thank him for his perseverance in adversity:

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Peter Cook leads Human Dynamics, offering better Organisation Development, Training and Coaching. He also offers keynotes that blend World Class Leadership Thinking with the wisdom of the street via The Academy of Rock – where Business Meets Music. Author of seven books on Business Leadership, acclaimed by Tom Peters, Professors Charles Handy, Adrian Furnham and Harvey Goldsmith CBE.

Bob Marley

I had the rare pleasure of interviewing Aston “Family Man” Barrett, legendary bass player with Bob Marley and The Wailers just recently. Aston was pretty chilled out when we met at The Brooklyn Bowl – a superb venue in London which models the original venue in the USA. Perhaps his relaxed state is not so surprising. I learned after our interview that Aston has 52 children!! As well as that he also found some time to be the “heartbeat” of The Wailers since 1969, with his distinctive melodic bass playing style. For a reminder of his work with Bob Marley, check out “One Love” here:

We spoke of a wide variety of things connected with Bob Marley, Reggae music and so on. Here are some of the backstage highlights from our meeting:

Inspirations

The music of Bob Marley and The Wailers was inspired by a deep connection with God via the Rastafarian faith. This connection occurs frequently in the lyrics to his songs. It also came through loud and clear in the interview with Aston who credits The Lord God as his main influence in his life as a musician.

“Me don’t dip on nobody’s side. Me don’t dip on the black man’s side, not the white man’s side. Me dip on God’s side, the one who create me and cause me to come from black and white”

Chilled - with Aston "Family Man" Barrett

Chilled – with Aston “Family Man” Barrett

Politics

Bob Marley’s creative contribution was the notion that rebellion could be combined with dancing rather than street protest. Marley was not that concerned with politics per se, more the politics of love and salvation rather than the normal bi-polar debating style of traditional politics. It’s a position that we need more and more in a divided world.

“Me only have one ambition, y’know. I only have one thing I really like to see happen. I like to see mankind live together – black, white, Chinese, everyone – that’s all”

“The greatness of a man is not in how much wealth he acquires, but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him positively”

Family Guy

Family Guy

Music

“One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain”

Reggae came from a synthesis of Ska and Rocksteady – I talked about synthesis recently in my interview with The CFO (Chief Funk Officer) George Clinton. Reggae relies crucially on the rhythm section – drums and bass especially. Aston’s key contribution was to play melodic lines on the bass. This was pivotal to The Wailers’ unique sound. You just have to listen to “Wait in Vain” to hear this quality.

And finally here’s the interview we recorded just as The Wailers were warming up to play:

With thanks to Kirsty Pearce-Perkins for her help in arranging things at The Brooklyn Bowl and Lee Phillips and Lena Andrews of ME1 TV for everything else. I’m feeling pretty chilled after meeting the Family Guy! 52 children is mind boggling – Aston is 68 years old and my dad was 67 when I was born, but, as far as I know, he only managed two children!

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Peter Cook leads Human Dynamics, offering better Organisation Development, Training and Coaching. He offers keynotes that blend World Class Leadership Thinking with the wisdom of the street via The Academy of Rock – where Business Meets Music. Author of seven books on Business Leadership, acclaimed by Tom Peters, Professor Charles Handy and Harvey Goldsmith CBE.

John Peel – 75 years of innovation

John Peel's record collection - Click on the picture to find out more

John Peel’s record collection – Click on the picture to find out more

John Peel would have been 75 years old this year. I was reflecting on his impact on me both musically and on my approach to life and here are five things about Mr Peel that stand out for me – what are yours? Write me a letter or make a comment here, or even send me a piece of new music to listen to ….

1. Stay Young and Keep in Touch – So many people only like music at a certain time of their lives – the 60′s, 70′s, 90′s etc. and they are prone to saying things like “All music is rubbish now” when they should simply say “I only listened to music between the ages of 14 and 23 and I’m a creature of habit so I’m on repeat from now on”. One of John’s teachers said of him:

“It’s possible that John can form some kind of nightmarish career out of his enthusiasm for unlistenable records and his delight in writing long and facetious essays…”

2. Refuse to be ruled by metrics – Peel refused to be influenced by ratings or playlists. Instead it was the “John Peel brand” that made the ratings. You never knew what you might hear on one of John’s shows and that in itself produced the listeners which he needed to satisfy BBC bosses.

3. Support innovators – John would break new acts that would otherwise not receive radio play. Amongst these he was responsible for bringing my friend Bill Nelson and Be-Bop Deluxe to the attention of music lovers. Some years later, Bill captured Peel’s Liverpudian tones in the introduction to his “Modern Music Suite” . Listen to the full piece, which features John Peel and Tony Hancock in the opening section of the suite:

Amongst a long list of artists and bands that owe their success wholly or in part to John Peel are: Pulp, The White Stripes, Mike Oldfield, Nirvana, The Strokes, Bauhaus, The Doctors of Madness, P.J. Harvey, The Smiths, Bernie Tormé, Led Zeppelin, Queen, Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley, The Cocteau Twins, Bill Nelson, Marc Bolan and T.REX, The Slits, The Cure, The Undertones and Billy Bragg.

The manner of John getting to know Bragg was rather unconventional. Bragg heard John say he was hungry on air and rushed in with a Mushroom Biryani and a copy of “Life’s a Riot with Spy vs Spy”. Peel went on to play a track from the album but at the wrong speed (Bragg’s albums were recorded loud and short to play at 45 RPM).

Mushroom Biryani - The Choice of Influencers

Mushroom Biryani – The influencing choice of champions

4. An anti-establishment member of the establishment – John Peel’s biography states that Peel was anti-establishment because he knew how the establishment worked – he’d been part of it and he didn’t like it. He attended public school in Shropshire, but was shy and quiet and he was frequently bullied for not fitting in. Instead of playing rugby, John rebelled with a choice selection of rare vinyl. It’s a feeling that resonates at my core. I went to a grammar school, hated rugby and suffered a degree of bullying for not fitting in, preferring to listen to music and obsessing about science – something of a geek by today’s standards :-) A great life lesson for innovators is to know the system you are trying to influence. John Peel knew what he had to do to keep the BBC just on the right side.

5. A Witty Life Long Learner

Towards the end of his life Peel had embraced hip hop, drum and bass and a number of other musical genres, never getting stuck in a musical paradigm. Eventually the BBC succumbed to ratings and Radio 1 decided to cut an hour of his show in favour of a Drum and Bass programme. Peel responded with his usual wit – read the full letter here and his parting shot to Matthew Bannister:

“Think of my programmes as your research department. Noisy, smelly but occasionally coming up with the formulae which you can subsequently market”

Peel’s attitude to most things was filled with a totally original wry sense of humour and irony – none more than with his views on his eventual death:

“I’ve always imagined I’d die by driving into the back of a truck while trying to read the name on a cassette, and people would say, ‘he would have wanted to go that way.’ Well, I want them to know that I wouldn’t”

Finally, an acrostic poem written in 2004 by my friend Dave Brooks and some video content of a few of the artists that John Peel broke including archive footage from Sir Richard Branson discussing John’s contribution to Virgin.

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Peter Cook leads Human Dynamics, offering better Organisation Development, Training and Coaching. He offers keynotes that blend World Class Leadership Thinking with the wisdom of the street via The Academy of Rock – where Business Meets Music. Author of seven books on Business Leadership, acclaimed by Tom Peters, Professors Charles Handy, Adrian Furnham and Harvey Goldsmith CBE.

Hollywood comes to … Wakefield

With the great Bill Nelson - continuously creative for more that 45 years

With the great Bill Nelson – continuously creative for more than 45 years

It was a rare privilege and a great pleasure to make a 12 hour round trip to Wakefield on Monday, to witness the artist, musician and friend Mr Bill Nelson receive a lifetime achievement award for his work in a ceremony that lasted less than 10 minutes.  The Wakefield Stars Scheme aims to acknowledge lifetime achievements of local people and the ambition is to pave the area all the way from the Bull Ring to The Hepworth Gallery with these Hollywood styled pavement plaques. Bill will be sitting amongst such stunning company as Henry Moore, the composer Noel Gay, John Godber the playwright, Barbara Hepworth, Sir Martin Frobisher, conservationist Charles Waterton and many others who made Wakefield’s mark on the world.

Bill has defied convention, setting his own path in a music world dominated by people who prefer to follow the latest fashion. Perhaps one of the first to start his own independent label Cocteau Records, Bill has always been at least two steps ahead of the world.  Admired by Sir Paul McCartney, Kate Bush, Brian May and many other greats.  An influence on people such as Prince, Big Country, Dave Grohl etc. and copied by post-modern acts such as My Chemical Romance and The Darkness.  You can read more on this aspect at Bill Nelson – integrity and creativity in a bottle.

Perhaps the most poignant moment of the ceremony was when Bill recalled that he had stood at the foot of the stage at around the age of four years old as his father Walter played the saxophone at a wedding. Bill had been given a toy saxophone to play along with his father! He has had some sadness in his life of late, as he is suffering from hearing loss. It was this news that compelled me to make the journey for what was less than an hour at the event, having connected deeply with Bill’s sense of frustration at the thought that he may not be able to make or hear music in quite the same way ever again. I also know that Bill will rise again as there are some wonderful things that can be done in this age to mitigate the symptoms that he is experiencing. It was also lovely to see Bill’s Mum who always looks fantastic, alongside Bill’s wife Emiko and the Nelson family – a proud moment for them.

I was reminded of scenes from “Dads Army” with the Town Clerk, as the Director of Culture and the Arts attempted to read his speech without any real knowledge of Bill’s work and his impact across the world! :-) Still, it was rather charming for all that and he made a really good effort despite his lack of knowledge of Wakefield’s finest. A little less time spent in strategic planning committees and more on the street is recommended :-) Bill pointed out that the last prize he won was a bar of chocolate for striking the triangle once in a performance when he was a boy! He has been hitting all the right notes ever since despite no formal musical education. Like myself, Bill claims he cannot read music, playing by ear and using intuition to guide him into new sonic territories. It’s a refreshing change to the ‘painting by numbers’ approach that turns out identikit musicians these days.

From Hollywood to Holyground ...

From Hollywood to Holyground …

In case you are unfamiliar with Bill’s work, here’s a sample of the huge diversity of his music. Check his website out at Bill Nelson and catch up with his output. This truly was an adventure in a Yorkshire landscape which was made in heaven … Sign your name with a star …

Here's hoping the Wakefield's Starman will rise again - Thank you for 40 years of continuous joy

Here’s hoping that Wakefield’s Starman will rise again – Thank you for 40 years of continuous joy. Stay Young

Flowers and Dirt

Flowers and Dirt - Click to buy the CD or download now

Flowers and Dirt – Click to buy the CD or download now

Today marks the release of Bernie Tormé’s awesome new double album “Flowers and Dirt” and I’m delighted to been able to help in a small way on the road to Bernie’s renaissance that led to this development. Bernie’s example teaches us valuable lessons about business, marketing and engagement. Firstly, let’s hear the man himself explaining the project:

You may have heard the phrase “If you want something done properly, do it yourself” It is incorrect in many circumstances, since a committed expert will always do a better job than a lazy novice. But in the case of my friend Bernie the cliché is absolutely true … The music industry has lots of people with good intentions but poor timing and competence when it comes to the murky world of marketing and promotion. So Bernie decided to adopt a DIY approach to support his new album release and tour. He crowdfunded the project via Pledge Music to engage people and was funded to 418% of his target.

Bernie’s tour takes off on October 15 and the double album “Flowers and Dirt” is available today on Bandcamp and all the usual platforms. If, like me, you want the money to end up with the artist rather than a bunch of middle men, buy it on Bandcamp.

The Tour Dates - Go to http://www.bernietorme.co.uk/shows.html for ticket links

The Tour Dates – Go to http://www.bernietorme.co.uk/shows.html for ticket links

Business and Music Lessons

  1. Whilst conventional wisdom suggests that leadership and management is all about delegation, in the music industry, there is an argument for a DIY approach if you cannot get hold of great people to manage your enterprise.
  2. The DIY approach cuts out all the thieving by major platforms such as Amazon and iTunes, though a plethora of middle men, and connects the artist to their fans direct. It’s what consultants call “disintermediation” but what I call common sense.
  3. Look in other places to find other people who are committed to help you. In Bernie’s case, he harnessed the power of the crowd and a little help from his friends.
  4. Seek advice from experts, but consider your own circumstances too and decide to do what’s right for you. A best-fit approach is always better than “template” business advice.

Bernie was extremely kind in giving me some credit for helping to kick start his thinking re marketing and I ended up with a credit for this “accidental coaching”, alongside Arthur Brown, the man behind the 1960′s hit phenomenon “Fire”. We’ll be performing “Fire” by Jimi Hendrix when I join Bernie on stage at London’s Borderline on October 29th. Be sure to book your place at the gig of the year and relight your own fire …

Credited alongside the awesomely Crazy World of Arthur Brown - Thank you Bernie

Credited alongside the awesomely Crazy World of Arthur Brown – Thank you Bernie!!

Flowers and Dirt - literally - Click to buy the CD or download now

Flowers and Dirt – Click to buy the CD or download now

Peter Cook leads Human Dynamics, offering better Business and Organisation Development, Training and Coaching. He also offers keynotes that blend World Class Leadership Thinking with parallel lessons from music via The Academy of Rock – where Business Meets Music. Author of seven books on Business Leadership, acclaimed by Tom Peters, Professors Charles Handy, Adrian Furnham and Harvey Goldsmith CBE. Contact Peter to transform your enterprise.

Search for a Star

Blondie

Call me to join the band 07725 927585

Today we have an update on the development of “Rock In The City” – a rock band I formed with Dr Andrew Sentence, former Monetary Policy Committee Member at The Bank of England and now Senior Economic Adviser for PwC. Here’s some clips of the band taken from our first performance at a garden party in summer:

Now we have got the basics right, our next goal is to develop the musical dynamics and performance capabilities of the band.  We are therefore looking for a female or male singer with gusto to add sparkle and glow to our performance. We are planning a number of corporate performances in the City of London and these will attract press attention. Is it you we’re looking for?

Give me a call and I’ll fill you in with the details.

In search of a Prince or Princess

In search of a Prince or Princess?

Rock in the City - Logo design by Simon Heath @SimonHeath1

Rock in the City – Logo design by Simon Heath @SimonHeath1

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About the Author:  Peter Cook leads The Academy of Rock - Keynote events with a difference and Human Dynamics - Business and organisation development, training and coaching.  Contact via 07725 927585