Maybe I’m A Maze(d)

Maybe I'm A Maze(d)

Maybe I’m A Maze(d)

We’ve just completed the work surrounding the design and delivery of a Sales Conference for a major company in Ireland.  We had a wonderful time designing and delivering the conference and hope to return later in the year for another piece of work.

Our theme at the conference was navigating constraints to sales in a highly constrained business environment.  We have written on the subject of constraints and creativity before. I’ve had been hired to work through an ambitious sales plan for 2014 – 2015 and, after some initial diagnostic work, we came up with the idea of mazes, puzzles and games as a design principle for the event, since the client’s sales environment is itself complex, full of quicker or slower routes to sales and there are some ‘dead ends’, which are like a maze:

Screen Shot 2014-02-03 at 11.37.41

Navigating the sales maze

Design Thinking

In the event, we devised a number of ‘kinaesthetic puzzles’ to get people engaged and prepared for the business challenges.  The main experiences consisted of the design and testing of some puzzles / games / mazes made by participants, intended to teach other teams about particular constraints in a very powerful way and offer a forum for collective creative thinking and learning. I’m pleased to say that our unique brand of ‘serious fun’ was well received:

The feedback from all of our team has been fantastic with many quotes of ‘the best conference ever’ ringing down the phone lines for  the days following

Intelligent fun - using serious games to unlock complex business issues

Intelligent fun – using serious games to unlock complex business issues – This particular design was based on Snakes and Ladders

We also provided a toolkit of creativity strategies to supplement the team’s natural capabilities in this area.  One such skill is the concept of ‘combination’ as a spur to creating products and services that offer sustainable and hard to copy advantages.  This was introduced via a live seminar on the subject using rock music.  Here’s a short extract from the “Riffs and Myths of Creativity” seminar:

Business lessons

  • As Einstein said “You can’t solve a problem with the same level of thinking that created it”. Serious problems can sometimes be made worse by applying serious thinking to them.
  • By changing the frame of reference, sometimes you change the ease in which a problem can be tackled. This can be done in a variety of ways.
  • Good design thinking takes the client’s issue / problem / opportunity and then designs an intervention which models the topic, allowing space for new thinking, rather than ‘starting with the intervention and fitting the client’s topic to it. It’s a best-fit rather than a template approach to dealing with complex topics.
  • Even the most reserved people can be encouraged to play if it is serious play rather than just playfulness for it’s own sake. That said, this often works best if assisted by skilled and experienced facilitators.

Finally, here’s the song which inspired the title of this blog and a piece from the Irish legendary blues master Rory Gallagher for no particular reason other than it’s great:

******************************************

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.

Box Set 7

Coincidences, Complexities and Creativity

I have just been hired to deliver a conference keynote and an innovation summit in Dublin. The booking came about whilst having some drinks with an Irish chap in Amsterdam who knows the taxi driver that took me from Knock Airport to Westport in Ireland back in March. Had I been like Van Morrison, who never talks to taxi drivers, none of this would have happened. That’s the power of networking and coincidences.

The series of coincidences I’ve just mentioned is statistically unlikely.  Importantly if any single one of them had not occurred then the result would not have happened.  Does that come down to dumb luck?  I think not.  Let’s take a quick look at what the gurus say on the subject:

Luck, Sweat and Tears

Luck, Sweat and Tears

So, I’m suggesting that planning to be lucky is more effective than pure luck.  How then was there some kind of plan in my lucky story?  Well, it all started about 6 years ago, when I did a creativity programme for Pfizer down in Cork. The programme was very successful in so far that it produced a new synthetic route for a drug substance, which paid for the investment many many times over.  More importantly, the programme was adopted by the company and one of its staff has become an acknowledged expert in the topic, having taken the approach to the US and beyond.  What has this got to do with the taxi driver?  Well the head of the unit referred my work to a colleague in Allergan in Westport who asked me to join a conference call to discuss the need.  I offered to travel to Westport to undertake a proper diagnosis, which led to the taxi ride with Simon Moran.  Simon and I hit it off instantly and got talking about all manner of business opportunities.  I subsequently gained another project from a further referral to another pharmaceutical company, which prompted yet another company to hire me for the project in Amsterdam and the rest you know.  Networking works when the ‘dots’ join up.  In this case, this particular sequence took over six years to come to fruition.  When people tell me that networking does not work, it occurs to me that (a) you have to do enough of it for connectivity to occur and (b) people are impatient and do not act consistently over time.

To have more happy coincidences from complex business affairs:

  • See all interactions as potential networking opportunities, even those that seem outside your business interests
  • Have enough interactions to ensure that coincidences occur.  Networking is partly a numbers game
  • Ensure that each interaction is of sufficient quality for people to remember it.  Successful networking relies on both quality as well as quantity

To finish, here’s a song from Elvis Costello about accidents:

******************************************

About the Blogger:  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 Business and Music programme for FREE via The Music of Business Online.

The bookshelf

Towards 2014

It’s been another rocky year in 2013 as I reflect on plans for my 20th year in business with Human Dynamics and The Academy of Rock.  Thank you all for your contributions to this blog and in many other ways – they have all helped keep a sense of perspective and balance in times of great turbulence.  A major theme of 2013 and in the last few years of recession generally for me has been reinvention and renewal.

Reinvention and Renewal

After several years of incredibly difficult trading conditions, this year brought some respite in terms of projects of a more significant nature.  This has followed considerable reinvention and renewal of what we offer and via the expansion of our global network to meet the needs of larger companies and the increasing desire of those companies to have an offer which can be scaled and taken anywhere in the world.  The highlights of this were:

  • A major piece of innovation consultancy for a large pharmaceutical company in New York, which we won against stiff competition from the brand leader in the field
  • A masterclass event on creativity and innovation at Nokia, which was regarded as one of the best events they have ever had, again, against the backdrop of competition from the big brand
  • A project to help align the practices of the EMEA operations of another pharma company.  This has spawned further requests for keynotes and summit workshops in Ireland into 2014
  • Repeat bookings at conferences for the pharmaceutical industry and in Nottingham’s technology hub
  • A training programme on applied creativity for Lloyds of London, won against the odds for a small but highly networked organisation
  • An overall increase in the number of requests for speaking engagements and conference designs
  • An invitation to commence a PhD at Imperial College London

Words and Music

I released my 7th book “The Music of Business”, having gained an endorsement for the book from Harvey Goldsmith CBE, the man behind Live Aid via a strange set of circumstances.  I was also delighted to be invited to contribute to David D’Souza’s book “Humane Resourced”.   I’m now trying to fit in the writing of a major tome on innovation and creativity for release in 2014.

Presenting Doug Morris, CEO of Sony Music, with The Music of Business

Presenting Doug Morris, CEO of Sony Music, with The Music of Business – Click for your copy

At the level of pure pleasure, I compered and performed at a Charity Event, which raised a tidy sum of money for Demelza House Children’s Hospice, an absolutely vital charity ignored and overlooked by Governments.  I was also invited to jam with a former member of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee at Dr Andrew Sentence’s garden party.  Andrew has just released his first book on the economy entitled Rediscovering Growth : After The Crisis.  He has also asked us back to his 2014 garden party to perform with the band so I will have to get practising as his son Tim is a virtuoso jazz player!

Andrew Sentance at a recent event. The other guy did not show up to the Garden Party ...

Andrew Sentance at a recent event. The other guy did not show up to the Garden Party … Click on the picture for Andrew’s new book

I also wrote and recorded a rock song to unleash some of my angst about how we have all contributed in smaller or larger ways to the ‘buy now, pay later society’ ever since hire purchase appeared as an idea in 1920’s America.  The result was a pithy and deeply ironic song about economics, banking and shopping called “Fiscal Cliff” which nearly reached the charts.  We had an absolute hoot recording it. Here’s the video, which we made from start to finish in two hours – So, it’s not exactly a Hollywood production but not a bad job nonetheless.  Feel free to download a copy on iTunes, Amazon or Google Play for Christmas – All proceeds are going to Demelza Children’s Hospice.

Reasons to be cheerful

One of the most important part of running a business is the people you get to work with and come into contact with. Can I extend my thanks to the following people, who I’ve had the pleasure of working or collaborating with in 2013 as part of the Human Dynamics and Academy of Rock offering.  To Steve Gorton, Marjolein Jupijn, Val and Errol Whitter, Simon Heath, Dave Brooks, Bernie Tormé, Ben Weinlick, Andrew Sentance, Professor Peter Childs, Rowena Sian MorganDavid D’Souza, Trevor Lee, Professor Adrian Furnham, Richard Strange, Phil Hawthorn, Doug Shaw, Nadine Hack, Dr Reg Butterfield and many others.  I look forward to many more collaborations in 2014 and beyond.  Also thanks to my   clients Roche, Johnson and Johnson, Nokia, Fuji Film, Imperial College London, Lloyds, Angel Trains, The Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply, The Association of Clinical Data Management – I quite literally could not have done it without you!

2014 Resolutions

In 2014  it is the 20th anniversary of my companies Human Dynamics and The Academy of Rock.  For me this means:

Professional Goals

Continuing to challenge the stereotype that the ‘bigger branded consultancies’ are safer bets for procurement departments to choose.  For me, this means trading from a platform of intelligent content and thoughtful customer focus rather than handing out branded pens and fluffy toys to clients.

Developing the global network – for too many years, people have seen the company as a one-man business when we have a worldwide network of thought leaders and associates and we also work in partnership with others.  One sign of progress in this area happened in 2013 when Nadine Hack asked us to collaborate in a piece of global consulting.  This was a true honour – Nadine is recognised as one of the worlds’ most trusted leaders on ethical behaviour in organisations. She has worked with Nelson Mandela, Barak Obama and many of the world’s greatest corporations to change their collective mindsets about ethical and sustainable business strategy and practice.

To complete the research and writing of my 8th and 9th books on Business Innovation and Creativity.  This will require the usual ‘get up early, stay up late strategy’ …  We’ll have to see if and how a PhD fits in …

Personal Goals:

To find more time for looking after myself.  Yes, this includes cycling when it’s cold and wet!  Damn – I’ve told everyone now, so I’ll have to do it  :-)  Making time for my son, who is suffering under the weight of constant tests and exams in an education system which now resembles the arrival of The Ministry of Magic in “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” at my local school.  And finding time to support my wife as she cares for her mum.

Wishing you a happy and prosperous New Year !

Peter

******************************************

About the Blogger:  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 Business and Music programme for FREE via The Music of Business Online.

The bookshelf

Seasons Greetings

I don’t do Christmas cards any more, but instead give the money to Charity.  This year it’s Demelza Children’s Hospice who we did a concert for earlier in the year which raised £1000.  I’ve just made a festive piece of ambient music inspired by cats !!  A trifle cheesy, but it’s all for a good cause.  Check it out here:

We’re making a proper film for the music in the coming weeks as a more general fundraiser for Demelza.  So, seasons greetings and all the best for 2014!  Here’s a word from our sponsors:

Miaow

Miaow

******************************************

About the Blogger:  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 Business and Music programme for FREE via The Music of Business Online.

The bookshelf

The bookshelf

Creativity – I love you

Creativity is seeing something different in the ordinary ...

Creativity is seeing something different in the ordinary …

Seven questions to prompt your own reflections on your creativity.

  1. What do you consider your creative strengths?
  2. How do these make you uniquely able to do what you do?
  3. Where are the applications for these strengths – in business, in life etc.?
  4. How might you develop your creative strengths?
  5. Are any aspects of your creativity liabilities in certain situations?
  6. What untapped parts of your life are currently unused in your work?
  7. How might you make better or different uses of these strengths?

Following a great post on Linkedin asking about people’s personal creativity strengths by Lynette Jensen in Australia, I was prompted to reflect on my own strengths in this area. Rather than filling in endless questionnaires and conducting 360 degree appraisals, I asked my wife, who probably is more accurate and truthful than the other approaches! She reminded me that I have had an unusually fortunate life in respect of creativity, having more or less mapped out my own career (she is rather jealous! :-) ).  She went on to help me notice some of the uncommon strengths that have accrued as a result of this:

  1. I have worked across 3 distinctly diverse disciplines – Science, Business and Music. This cross-curricular learning helps me make connections between things that apparently others don’t. This makes me variously wonderful, strange, deep, hard to follow and a host of other positives and negatives :-)  If working with me is rewarding but hard work, then living with me must be much worse! Fortunately, my wife has the patience of a saint …
  2. I’ve worked in industry, academia and in the community – in Industry, working for a pharmaceutical company all around the world, in academia, teaching MBA’s in creativity and innovation, in business as a consultant, author and speaker on creativity and innovation in overlapping cycles of 18 years each, plus in the community as a rock musician over my entire life. She said that this gives me the ability to work with people of all levels and viewpoints, from professors, world leaders through to people on the ground floor of companies and those people who are in the gutter, looking at the stars. She reminded me that it is uncommon to be at ease and able to work with people from all walks of life.
  3. The academic and industry part of my life makes my creativity grounded within a business context.  She points out that this is a huge difference to the ‘usual suspects’ in the field and this was confirmed by a corporate client recently, who chose Human Dynamics for a piece of consultancy work preferentially against the market leader, because of our repertoire, depth or experience and grounding.
  4. I never consider I have stopped learning, which makes me innately curious, the stuff of creativity and innovation. I live to learn and learn to live. Mental playfulness is a muscle that I like to stretch and test, sometimes to destruction.  It is a quality that is crucially missing from many companies these days, which may explain how we get hired to help people leverage their creativity and innovation.

Macbook

Here’s the seven questions again to prompt your own reflections. Alternatively ask someone that knows you well:

Screen Shot 2013-11-24 at 23.07.19

For more explorations on what makes individuals especially creative and how to harness that power personally and corporately, check out the book “Best Practice Creativity“.  I’m presently writing a follow up volume and looking for stories and examples about what works in the field of personal creativity.  Please get in touch if you have a contribution.  Full credits given.

Best Practice Creativity - Available in English, Russian and American ...

Best Practice Creativity – Available in English, Russian and American … Acclaimed by Professor Charles Handy

******************************************

About the Blogger:  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

High Voltage Performance

I was delighted to be asked to give the opening keynote at the XPD High Performance conference recently in Nottingham and I’ve just been invited to give another keynote at the High Growth Summit in Nottingham on November 22 on the strength of this performance. I was also invited to speak at an event for the UK Tax Offices (HMRC), until they said that they could not afford to pay me. I pointed out that nearly 30% of the fee would return to them in taxes :-) but they were unmoved. Perhaps I should have offered to take “cash” as payment??  Anyway, here’s one of the conference photos:

DSCF0602

It turned out that the XPD conference theme was generated from the evening’s entertainment, a Madness tribute act.  It had set me thinking about the concept of “organisational madness” – in other words:

“Doing the same things in spite of compelling evidence of a need for change”

In an age of discontinuity, “more of the same” can be a recipe for business meltdown.  We need to be nimble and quick to survive and that has all sorts of consequences.  So, what can businesses learn from organisational madness?

  1. Business strategy becomes an “approach which learns and flexes” rather than a “five year plan”. It’s madness to plod on regardless if your customers are constantly changing their wants and needs.
  2. Staff are hired for their ability to learn and adapt more than just what they bring to the workplace. More than ever staff need to have adaptability built into their attitude.
  3. Customers are involved and engaged in the marketing of new products and services. It’s what academics refer to as 6th Generation Innovation.

and so on …

IMGA0010

Can I play with Madness … and Innovation?

We ended up contrasting companies which “LAG” (Learn, Adapt and Grow) from those that merely lag behind.  Are you a LAG or a laggard? A big thanks to David Langdown, Steve Robinson and the team at High Performance for making the event such a success. To book an experience like this, please get in touch with David Langdown at High Performance UK.  He does not accept deferred VAT payments as currency however … :-)

Here’s a trailer for our event on Friday 22 November in Nottingham, just before our two day event with a European Pharmaceutical company team in the Netherlands.

Sex, Leadership and Rock'n'Roll - Live in Nottingham

Sex, Leadership and Rock’n’Roll – Live in Nottingham

******************************************

About the Blogger:  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

What makes you happy at work?

What makes you happy at work?  Money? Praise? Doing something new? Meeting people? The ability to use your expertise? Giving something to others? Fame? Feedback? …  There’s some background to the question, in the form of a summary of Fred Herzberg’s work on satisfiers and dissatisfiers, and that of the other motivational giants in the book “Sex, Leadership and Rock’n’Roll

Business mixed with music

What turns you on at work? Find out here

I was reflecting upon my own motivators the other day when a client said to me “You’ve never had a care in the world.  For you, work is play”

Whilst I accepted this casual remark in the manner in which she intended it, as a piece of praise, the person in question obviously did not know just how much I care about my work and the painstaking design activity that sits behind what I do, so that it all looks easy on the day. But, indeed she was right.  We often do our best when there is a happy marriage between our own talents and what our job requires of us. When people have asked me “what is my secret to personal motivation”, I point out that I have simply brought what I love doing into close proximity with what my customers want and need, always ensuring that their needs come before my wants.  It’s what Wham were talking about when they came up with their ‘Choose Life’ T-Shirt:

If you're gonna do it, do it right

If you’re gonna do it, do it right …

That said, there are moments in my work when I do realise just how lucky I am .  One such moment occurred the other week after I had delivered an evening keynote address in innovation for a company and we had completed some team building activities with music after dinner.  Around 10.30 pm I realised that all was well and, just for a moment, I felt I could relax  and observe the scene.  I was playing “Paranoid” by Black Sabbath with Bernie Tormé, guitarist for Ozzy Osbourne, Ian Gillan, GMT et al, and was getting paid for it.  “How lucky am I”, I thought to myself.  Better still Bernie was kind enough to complement me on my playing when I drove him home later. Proof positive that praise and authentic feedback are huge “Herzberg motivators”.

Sharing a joke with a Monster of Rock - Bernie Tormé

Sharing a joke with a Monster of Rock – Bernie Tormé

So, never mind the boll…cks and books on personal development.  If you want to “Live to Work” rather than “Work to Live”, the goal is simply to marry something you love to do with something that someone else (a) wants / needs and (b) is prepared to pay you for.  If you wish us to come and do a masterclass on the topic plus a live music experience, please get in touch.  We’ve had enquiries from a wide range of people around the world, from pharmaceuticals in the USA to HMRC and a University who wants to help the local economy make a step up through innovation and export.

To finish, we must reach out again for George Michael and Co, who said it simply with the phrase “Enjoy What You Do” in their 1980’s benefit classic ‘Wham Rap”:

******************************************

About the Blogger:  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

Waxing lyrical

I went to see Ruby Wax and Alastair Campbell at the RSA event “How to tame your mind” just recently. The title of the event alluded to the general concept of “mindfulness”, which I’ve studied and practised over the years in order to be better at my job as a business consultant and musician.  The event was particularly targeted towards the use of mindfulness to address issues of mental health, especially depression, a topic which is becoming a bigger issue in 21st Century society, just when we seem to be moving towards a position of conquering many of the world’s most limiting diseases.  Some years back I met Professor Susan Greenfield who spoke convincingly on the part which neuroscience may play in dealing with depression in the 21st Century.  It turns out that Ruby and Susan are acquainted.  Small world, as I am connected to Susan via Professor Trevor Jones, who I had the great privilege to work for at the Wellcome Foundation, a truly great company that gave space to people to learn, grow and love their work long before we invented ‘three letter acronyms’ such as CSR, EFS, CBT, NLP and so on.  Perhaps this example comes from an age that time has forgotten.

Firstly some statistics:

  • One in four people will experience mental health problems at some point in their lives.
  • The NHS spends more tackling the problem than cardiovascular disease and cancer combined.
  • The World Health Organisation estimates that by 2030, depression will be the leading cause of the global burden of disease.
  • There is absolutely no doubt that mental ill health will happen either to us, or someone we love – so why on earth are we still so afraid to open up and talk about it?

Here’s some things to do regarding mindfulness:

  1. Find some time every day to ‘put distance’ between you and ‘your conversation with yourself’.  It’s what NLP masters call ‘3rd position’ or detachment.  It’s what my MBA students would call ‘being a reflective practitioner’.
  2. We are confounded by our ‘busyiness in business’.  Being busy feels good and it gives us no time to think.  Yet, a mindful approach to business may help us focus on the things that bring us success, fulfilment and so on.  Our lives are full of distractions – social media, smart phones, security codes and so on – it’s what I called ‘thin-slicing’ in my question to Alastair and Ruby.  More that ever we need time to focus on what matters most.
  3. Whilst it’s good to think, the real killer is rumination.  This is where we spend ours focusing and reviewing our mistakes / foibles etc.  If something goes wrong in life, review it, learn from it and move on.  My wife has this down to a tee on the odd occasions when things go wrong in business and I commence the cycle of endless analysis.  I am firmly but politely told to shut up and move on! :-)
  4. The ‘myth of happiness’ as outlined by the book “The Secret” is debunked in a hilarious way by Wax in her book, yet the fundamentals are simple.  Find something to do that aligns with your skills, beliefs and values.  Or, in the words of George Michael “Enjoy What You Do”.  Easy to say, harder to do, although I guess I’ve had a pretty good go at this in my career.  I’ll be writing more happiness and work in a few weeks time.

Here’s the full video of the event, including the question I asked about ‘thin slicing’ our lives around 36 minutes in:

Those of you that know me will be aware that I juggle all sorts of things into a 24 hour period and tend to live live as fully as it is possible.  As a musician I also know the value of solitude and focus – a side of me that is less well known.  It’s important to have some kind of anchor to the ground if you live a pressured life and I have found some ways to attend to the mindfulness that Ruby and Alastair mention.  There are always many more ways to learn and I recommend their books.

Screen Shot 2013-10-09 at 21.58.46

I met Ruby and Alastair at the end of the session.  I presented Ruby with a copy of “Sex, Leadership and Rock’n’Roll” and Alastair with a copy of “The Music of Business“, books which feature material on getting relationships right and the related ideas of flow and emotional intelligence.

******************************************

About the Blogger:  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

I’m not in love … with my car – Has Toyota lost its innovation mojo?

Some of you will know from reading my latest book “The Music of Business” that I’m a big fan of Toyota’s innovation.  It’s with some astonishment and disappointment that I must report a crack in the otherwise seamless seam in their unstoppable innovation drive.

I recently bought a new Toyota Prius from Beadles, having owned two previously and swapped to Toyota due to poor service from BMW. Compared with the last two cars, I’m afraid that this Prius has regressed, speaking electronically.

It has the facility to connect my iPod, yet on a number of occasions, the car has ‘frozen’ my iPod solid, so my only choice has been to reboot the iPod.  It has also destroyed some of the files.  The service centre has not been able to locate the cause of the fault.  Worse still, since they cannot locate the source of the fault, Toyota GB’s customer relations department have gone into denial over the problem.  If there’s one thing thats much worse than having a problem, it’s when customer relations people attempt to rewrite the story for fear of legal problems that they think might occur if they told the truth! OK, the ability to connect your iPod is not life threatening, so why am I writing this?

The satellite navigation is a permanent liability on this vehicle when all previous models were fine.  Toyota have redesigned the system and the screen is approximately 10% smaller than the previous model.  This seemingly small change has big consequences and I’m astonished that it was not picked up in focus groups and so on which are all part of the design process.

In brief, the sat nav, when set on the ‘shortest route’ i.e. the ‘straight line’ option, does some very strange things.  I spent two hours going about 5 miles in Wales recently, when the sat nav took me on a 270 degree excursion when there was a perfectly good trunk road available.  This included a trip through an unmade road and a farm.  As I was not familiar with the area, I trusted the sat nav and travelled approximately 30 miles on this straight line option, eventually arriving back nearly at where we had started.  The impact of this was that a 5 hour trip turned into a 10 hour one as we hit traffic on the motorway on our eventual return.  Small things can have much greater consequences.

Toyota's Sat Nav System in operation

Toyota’s Sat Nav System in operation

It has on several occasions advised me to take diversions due to ‘traffic congestion’ when there have been traffic lights ahead.  As a result, I have no faith in the system.  It is making me late for important business meetings and I regard punctuality as key in all my business dealings.

I was late for an important business meeting as the sat nav did not recognise an address in Tunbridge Wells recently.  The address was an established building and not a new build.  Toyota themselves have acknowledged that the system does not find “55 Calverley Road in Tunbridge Wells”, but moved back into denial when I asked them to put it right.

55 Calverley Road - It's just an illusion according to Toyota's customer service centre

55 Calverley Road – It’s just an illusion according to Toyota’s customer service centre

I don’t want to fall into the trap of saying ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ as innovation is continuous in most companies these days.  But the previous sat nav worked just fine in terms of navigation and the new system is a retrograde step, which Toyota needs to learn from.  At this point in time, this will be the last Toyota I ever buy.  The petrol heads amongst you may well say, “but it’s not the engine Peter”.  Yet, the electronic features of a car are now as important as the engine imho.  I may be an unusual buyer as I buy a ‘stereo system on wheels’ rather than an ‘engine’.  I certainly don’t want a car that destroys my record collection and makes me late for business meetings.  I like it even less when I as the customer get caught in the ‘crack in the pavement’ when the Service Centre say its a matter for Toyota and Toyota say it’s a matter for the Service Centre.  What say you Toyota?  Have you lost your innovation mojo?

In the warped words of Roger Taylor and Queen “I’m in love with my car (NOT)”

The Innovation Factory … and blog roll

We’re off to New York to run an innovation summit for a major Pharmaceutical company w/c 02 September.  This prompts me to mention Andy Warhol, The Factory and the transferable lessons re innovation in business.  I see Warhol’s Factory as the ultimate ‘skunkworks’ in terms of the business literature from Tom Peters et al on the topic, where paradigm shifting art was produced from almost nothing in a kind of ‘guerilla’ approach to creativity and innovation.

As a bonus part of our process with the company in the evenings we will be working in a low tech way with a ‘garage innovation’ approach instead of iPads and high tech.  This for me models the idea that, whilst some people believe that creativity and innovation needs opulent surroundings and resources, the opposite is also true.  Many of the world’s greatest breakthrough drugs have come from shabby laboratories and people who were underfunded and under loved. Much innovation and entrepreneurship starts in garages like HP’s famous start up in a ‘shed’.

To emphasise the ‘garage’ approach to innovation and creativity we are working with toilet tissue as a means of capturing the process, or ‘blog roll’ as I like to call it :

Innovation in just three sheets of 'blog roll' - Image by Simon Heath - Corporate Illustrator who is working with us in New York on the project

Innovation in just three sheets of ‘blog roll’ – Image by Simon Heath – Corporate Illustrator who is working with us in New York on the project

The approach uses a successive series of divergent an convergent thinking stages, spread out over 24 hours to allow just a little time for incubation and improvement.  Not quite the levels of incubation that Wallas (1926) had in mind but hey ho, life is busy and this is a piece of added value we intend to use to develop the team’s ability to work confidently and quickly together for the evening.  This process admittedly will not produce the final innovations, as the whole process is designed to fit into a few hours.  But, it will produce about 30 ‘quick and dirty’ ideas to be taken to the board for further consideration via  a peer review process.  This is in addition to our main work at the summit to tackle some thorny strategic problems in their full detail.  Obviously that’s not shareable.  However, it’s based on our approach to what we call “wicked” problems:

Wicked problems

The wicked problem matrix

For more details on our process design skills, do get in touch.  For more on Andy Warhol, The Factory and Innovation, get hold of a copy of our books “Best Practice Creativity”, “Sex, Leadership and Rock’n’Roll” and the latest one “The Music of Business“, acclaimed by Harvey Goldsmith CBE and Professor Adrian Furnham.

We leave with an insight into The Factory and Warhol courtesy of Lou Reed and John Cale.  The Factory, Max’s Kansas City and The Chelsea Hotel may no longer be what they were, but we can still learn valuable lessons from their example.