Hard Rock Heaven

Wednesday 29th October is a red letter day in my calendar as I have the great honour of playing a song at London’s Borderline with Bernie Tormé, former guitarist for Ozzy Osbourne, Atomic Rooster, Dee Snider and Ian Gillan. I’d be delighted to see some of you along at the gig and tickets are still available via Hard Rock at The Borderline.

Bernie funded the project through a crowdfunding approach and the project also donates money to a Teenage Cancer Trust. It just now needs to reach Bernie’s own personal target of 666% – the number of the beast! There are still just 6 days, 6 hours and 6 minutes to support the project. Bernie is offering a host of exclusive items in return for your support:

  • Guitar masterclasses in person or via SKYPE
  • An acoustic gig in your own house
  • VIP meet and greet at any one of his UK tour dates
  • Signed copies of the new album plus boxed set of catch up albums
  • The Fender Stratocaster that Ozzy Osbourne gave him

… and a number of other stunning offers.  Please check out the project via Monster of Rock - Bernie Tormé.

666 - the number of the beast ... still available to buy

666 – the number of the beast … still available to buy

 

Performing with someone of this magnitude throws up a number of issues regarding how you learn to work with a team when there is no opportunity for practice. This presents a huge potential risk for Bernie as it is his reputation on the line. But he need not worry ….  here is my list of transferable tips for high performance, be it hard rock heaven or hard work hell:

Tips for Spontaneous Combustion

Do the hard graft - Learn your piece inside out, forwards, backwards and then forget that you learned it – I’ve been allowed to suggest the tune we’ll play – Probably Manic Depression by Jimi Hendrix or something similar.  I chose this as I know Bernie loves Hendrix and it is sufficiently fluid to allow us to stretch out a little on the song. Check it out:

Understand the rules of engagement - In this case that means understanding how musical leadership passes around the band if we are to jam a little and keep things together.  I’ll have just a little time to study this at the sound check or maybe at Bernie’s garden party, to find out if it is the drummer who signals the end or Bernie himself and other matters of a practical nature.

Bernie - Peter Fire

Hire Bernie to come to your company and give a talk / play some music – we promise not to spontaneously combust anything unless you have asked in advance for it ….

Read the signs and signals - I’ve seen Bernie play before and worked with him at Corporate Functions, so we already have some understanding of our body language when communicating with the rest of the  band, re turn taking, stops, starts, finishes and so on. It’s very important to be emotionally intelligent when working with people in this way, not just living inside your own head but reading people around you. Music is such a good training ground for this – much better than management courses etc. as there is no rehearsal on stage.

Push the stop button - If you lose your way, just stop playing or turn the volume off. There are 3 other people playing who actually know what they are doing and the safety strap is to let them do just that if needed.

So, I’d love to see you at the gig on October 29th.  I have one spare ticket available in exchange for some assistance with getting to the gig from Kent and possibly a bit of filming on the night – contact me for details.

Tickets selling out fast - click the picture to buy yours now

Tickets selling out fast – click the picture to buy yours now whilst you can

To finish, here’s an example of jamming we did with cult punk rocker and two hit wonder John Otway at a Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) event at Brands Hatch – in this case, the band learned all his songs and then John joined us on the day itself.  We played half of one song and half or another and then John decided that we knew what we were doing …

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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 peter@humdyn.co.uk or +44 (0) 7725 927585.

Hospice appeal 2014

Today marks the release of my tribute to Prince for Demelza House Hospice.  Please download the track from Bandcamp, iTunes, Google Play, Amazon etc. Set in a Funk groove “What U C Is What U Get” tells a fictional story of a strange relationship between Prince and someone from another galaxy … Warning – the song contains an explicit lyric – I have produced a ‘bleeped’ version for more sensitive ears!  It has been well received by the Prince fanbase with a full feature in The bizzniz. I’m pretty sure some will love it and others will hate it due to the various nods and winks towards the master himself. We shall see.

.. it's all right, it's for a worthy cause ...

.. it’s all right, it’s for a worthy cause … Click to donate

 

Below are the various links to purchase. The Bandcamp option is especially interesting, as it includes our exclusive “BUY IT DEARER” option – No Amazon or iTunes fees and we’re donating a full £2.49 per copy to the Hospice, so if you are feeling generous, click on the picture to buy now.

BUY IT DEARER ON BANDCAMP and give more to the Hospice - no Amazon or iTunes fees

CLICK logo to BUY IT DEARER on BANDCAMP and give more to the Hospice – no Amazon or iTunes fees !!

Click to buy on Amazon

Click logo to buy on Amazon

Click icon to buy on Google Play Music

Click icon to buy on Google Play Music

Click on the icon to buy on iTunes

As I mentioned, I also produced a ‘bleeped version’ of the song for those who prefer not to hear the expletive in the chorus!!  So, you can BUY IT CLEAN OR DIRTY ! :-)  Can I count on your support?  Please share this blog and the links to the various places to buy.  It’s for a very good cause and we may just have a hit on our hands.  Do something remarkable for a great cause which gets no support from Government.

Censored version - Click to buy

Censored version – Click logo to buy bleeped version on Bandcamp

Artwork by Simon Heath - Twitter @SimonHeath1

Artwork by Simon Heath – Twitter @SimonHeath1

To help you decide which versions to buy, here’s the lyrics from the song and an audio sample of the track from our first Radio play on the the Thirst 4 Funk show:

UPDATE – One person donated £25 to the Hospice via the Bandcamp option – thank you so much.  As I write this update, the song has hit #3000 on Amazon – will it reach #1?  Yes, with your help via purchases, shares, reviews and so on.  Everything helps!!

Screen Shot 2014-07-16 at 00.39.36

Amazon chart score – Buy it now

Practice Makes Perfect

La Bohème

La Boheme

I attended a performance of La Bohème at London’s Albert Hall earlier this year.  Aside from the usual operatic story of romance, sex, drugs, rock’n’roll disease and death, I was struck by the preparation as the orchestra painstakingly practised their art before the performance began, although they had doubtless invested more than 10 000 hours of practice before this concert in mastering their instruments. Here’s a very short snippet of the warm up and what appears to be a cacophony:

Transferable Lessons:

  1. Professionals practice, amateurs try to wing it.  Even on pieces that they are familiar with, professionals warm themselves up. This is exactly the same when giving a keynote address or presentation in my experience.  Preparation is everything!
  2. Before a concert performance, individuals practice their own pieces in the main. This requires them to effectively shutdown their hearing and concentrate on their own performance. Once the performance starts, they need to hear their own performance and the rest of the orchestra. Listening to your own performance solo and to your performance in the context of those around you are distinctly different skill sets in my experience and are the hallmark of masters of their craft.
  3. The performers must also be untroubled by the audience talking etc.  So this is a selective type of hearing and deafness, what I call “listening through” rather than “listening to“.

These are the abilities of an emotionally intelligent person.  Someone who is a master of their own skill and who has the ability to tune in (or out) of what is going on around them.  Here’s our interpretation of a model that sums up the work of Daniel Goleman et al. on the topic.  Great leaders and great musicians share the skill of emotional intelligence.  What I call being a master of both inner and outer space.  For more on this take a peek at the book “Sex, Leadership and Rock’n’Roll“.

We’ll be practising these skills at a corporate improvisation session in London this week with “Masterclass“.  get in touch if you would like to witness one of these in action.

Screen Shot 2014-07-05 at 17.51.52

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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 peter@humdyn.co.uk or +44 (0) 7725 927585

Causing a Commotion … for Charity

Big thanks to Dr Andrew Sentance for inviting me to step in as a guest with his classic rock band “Revelation” at a Charity event in Essex the other week. I donned my spray tan, had a tattoo and a few piercings done and headed off to the party, which, to my surprise was nothing like “The Only Way Is Essex”. In fact we helped to raise £2000 for St Lukes’ Hospice which was an incredible amount for an evening like this.  Pre-order your copy of the song I wrote for Prince in support of a Children’s Hospice at Amazon.

Revelation, not Revolution

Revelation, not Revolution

Here’s a short video of the evening including the moment when the audience took over the instruments and the stage on “Smoke on the Water”:

We were unable to practice before the event but Andrew’s band Revelation are very flexible and we quickly established some ways of sending each other messages to help us gel as a band. Andrew commented himself on this point:

“The business lesson here is that when the team is well-aligned and each individual knows what they are doing, an awful lot can be achieved without too much team preparation and rehearsal. Spontaneity and good performance can coexist when people are focused on the same end goal and are capable and proficient in their own sphere. If the team turn up all individually unprepared and with very different objectives, it is a recipe for disaster in music and business!”

The band’s diet of music would perhaps not be my first choice of material as they do hits ranging from The Shadows, Chuck Berry through to Dire Straits and The Doobie Brothers. They are great songs but I have simply been overexposed to the standards like “Sultans of Swing”, “Apache”, “Alright Now” and “Long Train Running” at open mic jam sessions!!!  That may tell you more about me than the brilliance of these songs. However, I had a revelation at the charity gig as this gave me something new perform around and the experience was all the more enjoyable for that, even if I had to play some of the solos backwards ….

I have gotten so bored with 'Open Mic Jam Session standards' like "Sultans of Swing" that I need to play them backwards these days to maintain focus.

I have gotten so bored with ‘Open Mic Jam Session standards’ like “Sultans of Swing” that I need to play them backwards these days to maintain focus and engagement …. :-)

Another of my musical collaborations with Andrew is the RockintheCity band which also includes the drummer from Revelation Pete Stephens. We plan to do some Charity events in the City of London.  Andrew and I have been invited to appear on BBC Radio 5 Live’s Business Breakfast programme to talk about the RockintheCity concept.  Further to this we and are looking for event sponsors for the Charity events.  Our next warm up gig is a private party in August.  Take a look at Andrew’s Blog for some more details of our exploits.

Rock In the City - Lock up your cheque books!!

Rock In the City – Lock up your cheque books!! – Logo design by Simon Heath @simonheath1 on Twitter

Finally, here’s the impromptu encore from the evening, filmed by the drummer’s daughter and the title that inspired this post:

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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 peter@humdyn.co.uk or +44 (0) 7725 927585

Paul Mc Cartney

FT Beatles salmon SMALL

Sargent Pepper’s Lonely Asset Management Company …

What can one say about the innovation and creativity skills of a man who composed songs ranging from Eleanor Rigby, The Long and Winding Road, Blackbird to The Frog Song? Let’s start at the beginning:

Beginnings

Paul Mc Cartney was born on 18th June 1942 to parents who were around 40 years old when he arrived. Much of his early life was spent playing on bomb sites on the outskirts of Speke in Liverpool. His father was a jazz musician, playing the trumpet and a self taught pianist. He used to tell Paul “Learn to play the piano – you will get invited to parties”

LIverpool around the time of Paul Mc Cartney's birth

Liverpool around the time of Paul Mc Cartney’s birth

One of the most important elements of the bond between Lennon and Mc Cartney was the fact that both of them had lost their mothers early on in their lives. A partnership needs a bond and early childhood experiences are frequently very powerful in this respect. Other examples include Simon and Garfunkel and Mick Jagger and Keith Richard, who were childhood classmates. All proof positive that you really just need “A little help from your friends” …

Help - The Beatles as represented by Corporate Artist Simon Heath - Twitter @simonheath1

Help!! – The Beatles as represented by Consulting Artist and friend Simon Heath – Twitter @simonheath1

Creative Tension

It is reckoned that Lennon and Mc Cartney were quite different personalities. See an assessment of the Fab Four’s Myers Briggs types. There is of course some disagreement as to where each of them sit as (a) your type varies over time and (b) it’s rather difficult to assess John and George these days … :-( Some argue that John Lennon was an ENTP, which is my own type – a rare breed. In any case, it’s interesting to note that all of The Beatles occupied essentially minority types, especially George Harrison who conceived of the idea to produce large scale concerts to highlight world poverty issues long before Bob Geldof got on the case with Live Aid etc.

The case for diversity

The case for diversity

Mc Cartney and Innovation

Paul Mc Cartney is perhaps a lower risk taker than John Lennon, what psychologist Professor Michael Kirton would call an adaptor, as compared with those people he classed as innovators. Adaptors tend to work within the system, producing ideas that are more within accepted wisdom and so on whereas innovators tend to challenge existing norms, producing more radical ideas, some of which are impractical. Contrast “Yesterday”, written by Mc Cartney with “I am the Walrus”, written predominantly by Lennon. In business, adaptors often have greater success than innovators, as they tend to produce ideas that are less challenging and which are recognised by consumers in the marketplace as being a logical build on existing ideas. Often we need both innovators and adaptors to produce sustainable innovations: The innovators to produce the hard-to-copy ideas and; the adaptors to help bring the ideas into a practical market focus. Here’s a graphic comparison of the two types, with Mc Cartney perhaps being the more adaptive individual and Lennon the more innovative one. This probably explains the intense different loyalties between fans of Lennon or Mc Cartney.

Innovators and Adaptors compared through the metaphor of building a pyramid

Innovators and Adaptors compared through the metaphor of building a pyramid

Whereas Paul Mc Cartney has traversed musical genres, these have tended to be within existing musical paradigms, for example in his writing of Standing Stones, an album of original classics. He has also tended to be a great arranger of other people’s music. For example Mc Cartney wrote the distinctive mellotron introduction “Strawberry Fields Forever” for John Lennon. His latest album, entitled “New”, provides us with a set of Beatles’ inspired songs. After all, he has nothing to prove. This does not mean that he did not produce anything outside the paradigm. For example it was Mc Cartney that instigated the use of tape loops on “Revolver”. Here is the title track from the album – some shades of Sargent Pepper in this I feel …

Mc Cartney and Creativity

Paul Mc Cartney says that he still seeks advice from John Lennon when songwriting, imagining what John would advise him to do. This skill is what psychologists call projection and fantasy and is embodied in creativity techniques such as ‘Superheroes’, ‘The Disney Creativity Strategy’, ‘Six Thinking Hats’, ‘Wishing’ and so on. Here’s a graphical view of some creativity tools which one of our clients devised at the end of a masterclass event we designed for them, with a representation of the Superheroes approach in the centre. Can you guess what the others are?

Some creativity strategies summarised by one of our clients - in graphical form

Some creativity strategies summarised by one of our clients – in graphical form

He also exhibits playfulness in his approach to creativity. For example, Mc Cartney woke up with “Yesterday” in his head.  For several weeks the lyrics to “Yesterday” were “Scrambled eggs, oh my baby how I love your legs”. I certainly identify with the idea of putting down a prototype in order to develop an idea into an innovation, both in my life as a musician and as a Research and Development Scientist. Sometimes, putting down any idea produces the creative tension needed to develop a better idea.

There’s more on The Beatles and Creativity in the books “Sex, Leadership and Rock’n’Roll” and “The Music of Business“. We are currently considering some corporate events with the cast of “Let It Be”, as it turns out that I’ve performed with “Paul Mc Cartney” at open mic jam sessions in my home town a few times over the years. Contact us for more details or to arrange a unique business masterclass or conference.

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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 peter@humdyn.co.uk or +44 (0) 7725 927585

Beatles 2

Still Life with Apple, Mac ca and The Beatles

14714 – A tribute 2 Prince

14 July 2014 sees the launch of a song I wrote in honour of Prince a little while ago, featuring the beautiful singing voice of Sharon Mari, a young music student who has just finished her music degree and who is looking to make a career in music. Proceeds from the song are going to Demelza House Children’s Hospice, a charity which I’ve done a number of things for over the years and who receive no support from Government.  Pre-order the song on Amazon via the link below:

Click to buy on Amazon

Click to pre-order on Amazon

What U C is What U Get

Here’s the “recipe” we followed, although this is a product of 20 : 20 hindsight rather than a pre-meditated plan:
STEP 1 Take a synthesis of Funk, Rock ‘n’ Roll in the same way that Prince has been a ground breaking innovator and synthesiser of musical genres
STEP 2 Added a slightly tongue in cheek storyline about a strange and scandalous relationship involving Prince – but just who is in charge? Tip a wink to Prince by using some of his song titles as part of the storyline
STEP 3 Add the beautiful singing voice of Miss Sharon Mari, a music graduate with a great future
STEP 4 Add some great players and drop in a few referential nods to some classic Prince musical ornaments
STEP 5 Record it all in your basement as if your life depended on it … and there you have it …
Demelza Hospice - a worthy cause that rocks

Demelza Hospice – a worthy cause that rocks

We are making a charitable donation from all downloads from the song towards Demelza Children’s Hospice, an organisation which helps terminally ill children live their remaining months in comfort and dignity. Please download the single, share the cause and N JOY the music. A child’s life really does depend on it.  You can buy the song on 14 July 2014 at iTunes, Google Play, CD Baby, Amazon etc.  Just type in the title and / or Academy of Funk ‘n’ Roll.  In fact I’d be most grateful if you all bought the song on 14 July as we stand a fair chance of creating a hit record from this phenomenon. Warning, the song has an explicit chorus line!  Here’s the first verse:

The First Verse of What U C

The First Verse of What U C Is What U Get

Please share this blog or re-blog it as the piece is for a great cause. Last year we released a song about the economy called “Fiscal Cliff” which did pretty well, so I’m wondering if we can take things on from there?  I hope Prince will N JOY it.  I did manage to get a note about the piece to Hannah Ford, drummer with 3rdEyeGirl the other week in Camden, so we shall see …

Hannah Ford - One of the best drummers I've seen in recent times

Hannah Ford – One of the best drummers I’ve seen in recent times

To finish, here’s a piece from the master himself on the equally ambiguous subject of breakfast:

Artwork by Simon Heath - Corporate artist extraordinaire - Twitter @SimonHeath1

Artwork by Simon Heath – Corporate artist extraordinaire – Twitter @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 peter@humdyn.co.uk or +44 (0) 7725 927585

Directing HR

Sex, HR and Rock'n'Roll, a heady cocktail

Sex, HR and Rock’n’Roll, a heady cocktail

I was invited to give the afternoon keynote at the HR Directors Forum, held at Mayer Brown Solicitors in the City the other week.  Here’s a few highlights from the event:

Myths and Riffs of High Performance

The morning kicked off with a big bang from Professor Adrian Furnham, who elegantly blew away some myths surrounding the development of High Performance organisations and people.  Here’s just a few of the key insights:

Adrian released some interesting research on Coaching.  Whilst in general research demonstrates that the vast majority of Coaching is fairly ineffective, he highlighted some conditions under which it works.  Like most things, it all comes down to solid preparation:

  • Ensuring the client is ready to receive the coaching – 40% contribution
  • Getting the relationship right between client and coach – 30% contribution
  • Client expectation that coaching will lead to improvement – 15% contribution
  • The coaches’ repertoire of models / strategies and tools to help the client – 15% contribution

This provided me with great levels of satisfaction and a certain level of smugness!! :-) since I always spend a lot of time making sure my clients are fully prepared to benefit from coaching.  We then have an initial session to find out if the ‘chemistry’ will work and I work from a wide palette of approaches to coaching and not just the limited ‘question based approach’ that bedevils the ‘friendly co-pilot’ style of coaching, otherwise known as the ‘dumb leading the blind’.  There is of course a place for purely “Socratic” question based coaching but it is just one approach from a much wider repertoire.

Adrian also dealt a critical blow to the beloved “Nine Box Performance Management model” based on UCL’s detailed research into the model.  Read his new book “High Potential” with Ian MacRae for more insights if you want to do this stuff properly. Adrian also wrote an article on music and leadership for Psychology Today – read it here.

Nine Lives no more ...

Nine Lives no more … read High Potential by clicking on the picture

It also featured superb sessions from Liz Codd, who gave great insights into the realities of assessing leadership potential in an international Asset Management Firm and from John Renz at Novae Group, who also gave a practical example of how to do Coaching well in a business context, giving pragmatic triangulation to Professor Furnham’s ideas

Never Mind the Neuro-Boll … ks …

The most difficult session was an input on neuroscience and HR.  Admittedly, it was far too short to give any real opportunity to dig into the topic so I have some sympathy for the speaker.  My main difficulty with the session is that there was very little that did anything more than to reinforce some well known truths from over 100 years of social research on the topic by Herzberg, Victor Vroom et al. We already know that money doesn’t satisfy and that recognition is more important than reward.  We also know that the alignment of goals with personal motivations matters for high performance.  The speaker admitted that the addition of the word “neuro” to just about everything is simply an example of “old wine in new bottles”.  Don’t get me wrong, I am a scientist by original profession and neuroscience is an important scientific development, but I agreed with her that we must be careful to avoid strapping it on to just about everything.

Be skeptical when being sold neuro - bollocks

Be skeptical when being sold neuro – bollocks

I fought the Law, and the Law won …

Plus a superb session from a Lawyer – YES, a superb session from a Lawyer.  I have suffered the slings and arrows of numerous talks by lawyers when I was Branch Chair and Council Board Member for CIPD, but this was exceptional.  Clear, simple advice and insights from Chris Fisher at Mayer Brown into how companies can protect their intellectual property when people leave plus a range of other topics.

Sex, HR and Rock’n’Roll

The odd ball of the day was the panel session on “Sexism and the City”.  I am a vigorous advocate of diversity in every shape and form, having worked in a meritocracy at the Wellcome Foundation, a company who won four Nobel Prizes for it’s groundbreaking work in medicines for life threatening conditions.  In such a company, the work is much more important than politically correct quotas of black / white, straight / gay, able-bodied / disabled, male / female as a driving force for the selection and development of people.   As a result we had a genuine global village at the company and I found myself wondering whether the square mile was somehow still stuck in the 14th Century?  The session included a rant from a self-confessed “alpha female” who asked for a revolution to introduce female quotas in the City.  There is nothing less persuasive than a single issue protester with a ‘sandwich board’ so it was difficult to hear the sensible arguments that lay beneath it. However there were three other panel members who put forward wider arguments, beyond the outdated idea of bringing back quotas for women in senior positions which has failed over several generations.  After all, do we really think that just transplanting women without the necessary knowledge, skills and attitudes into positions is likely to make them shine?  The thinking needs to go much further than this, more along the lines of Professor Charles Handy and Tom Peters’ thought leadership in this area.  Overall, the panel session was provocative and set me thinking about the issues, so it did succeed in its aim of livening up the session before lunch after a long morning.

Adaptation, Improvisation and Organisation

I was asked to deliver the after lunch keynote … where I was rather strangely introduced as “I met some bloke who mixes rock music and business the other week” to a series of slightly confused people who were expecting a thought leader and former CIPD Council Board member rather than a busker.  Oh well, that happens from time to time! :-)  The session went very well despite losing nearly 1/3 of the time available and with this strange beginning.  Here’s my slide deck on the substantial issues of adaptation, improvisation and organisation in HR.  Contact me to discuss the issues I raised or for a personal walkthrough of the talk, where we looked at personal creativity and is relationship to adaptive or learning companies.

We finish with the main title of my talk:

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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 peter@humdyn.co.uk or +44 (0) 7725 927585.

 

The Music of Chemistry

Newlands Octaves - a few 'dodgy notes' included

Newlands Octaves

Three fascinations have filled my life : Science, Business and Music. Creativity is the art and discipline of noticing connections between things and this prompted me to write a blog about the connections between music and chemistry.

It was Döbereiner that first noticed the idea of patterns of the elements and, in 1828, he proposed the notion that the elements could be classified into triads, based on their properties. It took 30 more years for French geologist de Chancourtois’ to develop the idea.  de Chancourtois’ organised the elements by their atomic weights and published his work in 1863. It’s most interesting to note that his ideas were largely ignored by scientific community as he used geological terms to describe his insight.

Lesson for Innovators:  Work in the language of your target audience!

In 1865, John Newland came up with his theory of octaves for the elements, organising the elements into groups of 8 and using music as a means of explaining his theories to the Chemical Society in 1866, who refused to publish his work, suggesting that it was frivolous

Lesson for Innovators:  Persist with your metaphors!

There were some flaws in Newland’s theory as some elements did not quite ‘fit’ the law of octaves. It took a few more years before Mendeleev produced the essential breakthrough of what we now consider the basis of the modern periodic table. So confident was Mendeleev of his theory that he left spaces in the table for elements that had yet to be invented.

Mendeleev's periodic table from 1871

Mendeleev’s periodic table from 1871

Lesson for Innovators:  Ensure your theories explain gaps in current knowledge!

These stories illustrates the powerful forces that can operate to prevent a new idea or concept from coming into being.  It points to the need for inventors and innovators to understand and navigate such barriers if breakthrough ideas are to come into being. They are also great examples of pattern spotting as a creative act, as per our article about using mazes and puzzles to solve complex business problems. You will find a few more references to popular science in the business book “Sex, Leadership and Rock’n’Roll”:

Business mixed with music and a wink towards my science background

Business mixed with music and a wink towards my science background

Finally, a song that uses chemistry as the basis of its lyric. It’s the song “Bunsen Burner” by “Punk Idol and Two Hit Wonder” John Otway. I sponsored John’s round the world tour a few years back, losing my shirt on the enterprise. The tour was a massive failure in a comedy of errors on a par with “This is Spinal Tap” – It was a brilliant example of a superb idea which did not turn into innovation due to poor execution of the idea. I had been seduced into supporting John’s tour after helping him reach the Top 10 in the charts with Bunsen Burner – a song that John originally wrote to help his daughter pass her Chemistry O Levels.

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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 peter@humdyn.co.uk or +44 (0) 7725 927585.

The future of data

Big Data

I recently presented and facilitated a summit event for 100 people to explore the future of clinical data management using a suite of creativity and innovation techniques with my colleague, friend and associate Steve Gorton.  The issue of data management is complex and contentious.  As an illustration of this, the NHS recently withdrew a strategy to sell patient data to interested parties, after it asked the public to opt OUT of an imposed strategy rather than to opt IN. This serious misjudgement of public opinion has caused outrage and has required the NHS to reconsider its strategy. It is self evident that the collection of large volumes of health data has potentially huge health benefits if treatments for diseases can be found from this. However the strategy also has some potential downsides if moral hazard creeps in, with insurance companies using the data to hike insurance fees for certain classes of people, the potential for it to be used in recruitment and so on.  It seems that the reaction is made up of a number of concerns for ‘data leakage’ coupled with concerns about who owns the data and therefore who can benefit from its sale to third parties. Treatment of this topic as if it is a benign issue has cost the NHS a lot of money and an equivalent amount of credibility. The topic is complex with many unknown and unknowable parts.  It’s what Steve and I call a ‘wicked problem’:

Wicked problems - uncertain ends and means or both

Wicked problems – uncertain ends and means or both

So, what did the clinical data management managers make of the session? Rather than providing a suite of creativity tools, we offered them the chance to immerse themselves in three ‘creativity states’.  All good proprietary creativity techniques are based on some underlying ‘states of mind’, which occur naturally when people are in the mode of ideation. The three we offered are shown below.  These were found to be easier and quicker to access than the recipes for creativity offered by the product based creativity consultancies.

Three creativity principles from Human Dynamics

Three creativity principles from Human Dynamics

To bring these alive delegates explored “The future of clinical data management”.  They were asked to produce the most interesting and most unusual ideas to unpick the topic and “drain the Clinical Data Management swamp”. One theme was “Defining the role of clinical data management so everyone understands where the future lies”.  Why?  Because it is felt the rest of the system does not have much awareness or understands the key role that Clinical Data Management plays within the developmental process. Our first step was to break the wicked problem down into some more manageable chunks given the short time allocation.  This is how we ended up:

Digesting a wicked problem into more manageable entities using expert facilitation

Digesting a wicked problem into more manageable entities using expert facilitation

The headline outputs that are shareable from the session broke down into the “Most Interesting” ideas for further development and the “Most Unusual” ideas to act as provocations for more detailed thinking:

Wonderful and Wierd ideas for future development

Wonderful and Wierd ideas for future development

Most interesting: “What would be the outcome if Clinical Data Management  were to go on strike?” – developed from the reversal principle – this produced a rich seam of ideas, some of which have real value to the participant’s own companies if developed

Most unusual:  “Redefine and develop the brand so it remains current and up to date (like the annual Formula 1 team rebranding)” – developed from the projection principle.  This pointed participants to consider ideas in the arena of PR and marketing, not natural areas of strength for the profession

Whilst these require further development (and the groups went on to develop a broad range of more specific ideas within the event) the aim was/is to get people thinking wider from at least two perspectives and come up with some really practical and pragmatic ideas that generate traction.

This type of approach enables people, teams and organisations to stand back from the “wickedness” and begin to separate “the wood from the trees” and disperse the fog of confusion.  Importantly it is about creating value to help things happen quicker, for less investment and more satisfaction within the role.

Steve teaches Peter some new chords

Steve teaches Peter some new chords from the fog of confusion ….

Would you like to find out more about how these and similar approaches allow you think further and faster outside current wisdom and experience?  We’ll offer a pack of materials to help you.  Just mail us at peter@humdyn.co.uk

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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 peter@humdyn.co.uk or +44 (0) 7725 927585.  Check out our online Leadership programme for FREE via The Music of Business Online.

Killing me softly – An interview with Roberta Flack

Killing me softly with her words - Miss Roberta Flack

Killing me softly with her words – Miss Roberta Flack – Photo by Adam Coxon, The Lowdown Magazine

It was an unexpected delight to be invited to interview Roberta Flack recently, still performing at 75 years of age with a beautiful singing voice, wit charm and experience well beyond X-Factor and American Idol wannabes.  Let’s begin with a brief reminder of that beautiful singing, writing, playing and performing talent:

 

Here’s some insights from our dialogue which went on well past the TV interview:

Roberta on Teaching and Learning

Flack started her career teaching music at schools and privately in Washington D.C.  Reflecting on this she said she had some wonderful opportunities compared with the other students.  Teachers would leave the room and say “Carry on Roberta”.  Asked about what qualities they thought she possessed to get this request, Roberta said in a typically self-effacing manner that she had a fairly big mouth!  This ignores all her other qualities: an articulate style; a passion for her subject (in her case all forms of music) and an ability to reach other people’s heads, hearts and souls.  These are all transferable qualities for great leaders in any field. Asked what she had learned through her life she learned to appreciate everything that came her way, even those songs that she knew she could not or would not sing.  At one point she accompanied aspiring opera singers on piano in Georgetown and she got to meet and meet John F Kennedy, who attended the club.  In the course of working there, Flack had to learn to play songs that she had never played.  Reflecting on this she said:

“As a musician, when you get an opportunity to learn something that you don’t know, and to really learn and play it and execute it well, is such a thrill”

There is a direct parallel here for leaders in any field.  As Tom Peters says, execution is everything.  That relies on deep learning, the so-called 10 000 hours effect as quoted by Malcolm Gladwell. Musicians are used to the idea of deep practice as are great leaders.  Check out the full interview here:

 

Transferable Lesson : To become a great learner, learn to teach and teach people to learn

Roberta on Creativity and Reinterpretation

Flack took on the awesome task of reinterpreting a selection of songs by The Beatles in 2012 – Let It Be Roberta, having lived nearby to and also become good friends with John Lennon many years before. Reinterpreting a canon of work of such magnificence presents the artist with an enormous challenge as to how faithful you remain to the original or whether to do something quite different with the songs, which are almost untouchable. Flack wisely chose to do something different with the material to stunning effect. Reflecting on this, Roberta said that, it helped to be a classically trained musician. She was taught by Hazel Harrison, a music teacher from Howard University who excelled in Bach and music of the Baroque period. Roberta said:

“If you can hold on to your love for playing the piano and play Bach this way, rather than playing it like Chopin or Mozart, you will have accomplished something”

So, Flack learned to sight read all the pieces that the opera singers wanted her to play and make the music come to life rather than just to read the notes on the paper.  She was also stretched all the time by people who asked her to modify the pieces at will.  This level of adaptive behaviour provided her will the skill to get inside the heart of the musician and interpret the piece for the singers she had before her.  Undoubtedly this learning was formative in terms of her ability to reinterpret The Beatles material whilst staying true to the heart of the music.

Transferable Lesson : Act from your heart to find your soul

Roberta on new Business models

We held a fascinating after interview chat about Prince and his recent decision to work again with Warner Brothers after 20 years of producing his music independently. Roberta acknowledged the difficulty of gaining funding for your work in the modern age. Off camera we had a long chat about money and artistry. In her own case she set up The Real Artist Symposium, a gathering creative artists who own their own work and have worked with her to help give them a platform for their work.  This is just one of a number of new funding models that have emerged. We recently commented on Bernie Torme’s Crowdfunding Experiment as another exemplar of innovation.  These models are also apparent in other fields, such as publishing, where downloading has democratised the creative process but also made it much harder for artists to earn a living from their art. Business people would do well to learn that if what you are doing isn’t working, do something different.

Transferable Lesson : If your business model is broken, find a new one rather than banging your head against the same wall

And finally, a beautiful rendition of “Killing Me Softly”:

 

The first time ever I met Roberta Flack

The first time ever I met Roberta Flack

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About the Writer:  Peter Cook leads The Academy of Rock - Keynote events with a difference and Human Dynamics - Business and organisation development, training and coaching.  Contact via peter@humdyn.co.uk or +44 (0) 7725 927585.