Meet the CIO – Chief Improvising Officer – Dr Russ Derickson

Chief Improvisation Officer Derickson

Chief Improvisation Officer Derickson

Introducing Dr Russell G. Derickson, Polymath, Inventor, Jazz Musician, Academic.  I met Russ a year or so back now and am privileged to conduct an interview with him.

Tell me about your background

 

My background, by design, is broad and deep. All my life I have railed against a single domain of pursuit, something that has met with great resistance over time from individuals and organizations that prevail in a specialist-driven world. But that world is changing. I am trained and experienced in science, engineering, social science, music, and the literary arts, and pursue what I call a Generalist-Specialist path. You may have heard of T-shaped and Pi-shaped (like the Greek symbol Π) individuals, who have deep enough breadth to be able to interact effectively with a range of subject matter experts, but also have one area, if not two areas, of subject matter expertise themselves. I aspire to be that sort of person and I keep working on it. The journey is a continuous one. The T bar represents that breath, while the stem represents depth. Similarly for the Pi-shaped individual.  An apt description is “jack of many trades, master of one (or more),” which is a contravening departure from the well-known phrase “jack of all trades, master of none” that disparages broad knowledge and skills. I do not choose to be a narrow specialist, but by no means do I feel that specialist roles are not critical in society.

Specific jobs I have had include serving as a senior researcher in two national labs in the field of renewable energy; professorships in a technical university in the discipline of atmospheric science and in a business school teaching sustainable products and services; senior and chief engineer in three engineering consulting firms in the fields of hydrology, building energy, and software design; business analyst and information services specialist in a telecom company; and professional drummer and percussionist in concert bands and orchestras, jazz combos, and rock groups. I have also had many years as an independent consultant in a wide range of pursuits.  Software I have developed has won national awards and currently serves 95% of the home energy rating market nationally. Other projects and publications of mine have enjoyed international attention, and I recently shared a best journal paper award in the discipline of wind engineering. With four excellent collaborators, I led the paper titled “Coyotes, Jazz, and Creative Teams,” which delved into the essence of creativity and innovation and was presented at the EMSCR 2010 in Vienna.

Improvisation – why is this such an important skill in business?

Improvisation is vital for creativity and innovation in business pursuits, but also for circumstances when known procedures break down or become ineffective in the face of quickly changing events or environments, or sudden novel assaults. But it is important to understand what improvisation is and how to develop facility in using it. Simply stated, improvisation is the act of deviating from a prescribed script or standard process at a given moment. But one does not just “make it up” on the spot. As jazz legend Charles Mingus famously said: “You can’t improvise on nothing, man, you gotta improvise on something.” Check this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TU_RxWXijz0

Indeed, the basis for improvisation and skill in executing it are achieved only after long stretches of immersion in a field, in which one acquires core knowledge and experience and lots of exposure to low probability events (which by nature happen infrequently). And there are basic frameworks and protocols to follow, at least to a point, beyond which “the rules” can be bent, or broken, with enough experience and acquired wisdom in hand. Furthermore, improvisation is mainly based on prior experience with its use and usually consists of reassembling items in various combinations from a known “bag of tricks.” For example, a close scrutiny of Robin Williams’ performances reveals that he often, if not primarily, puts together combinations of things he has done many times before. Seldom does anything totally new emerge, but there are notable exceptions and they are truly astounding. All of these principles apply equally to business.

While on the faculty of a technical university teaching atmospheric science, I was called on by a faculty colleague in the English department to substitute teach in his class while he was gone on a trip. The theme I brought to his class was about improvisation with the title “What to do when you are thrown a curve.” For example, you are about to present a business case to a group of investors, only to discover that a key person in the investor group is missing, or your time slot has been reduced from an hour to 45 minutes because of a sudden schedule conflict. You are testifying to a city council and a new question has just been brought to its attention by some advisory source and you are asked to address it. There are many more such examples. It turns out that a certain level of anticipating such “curves” can be done and prepared for through scenario planning techniques among other methods. But at times you just have to wing it based on years of experience, or in some cases, set your boundaries and request more time or a rescheduling in order to prepare.

You talk about teams and dyads – can you explain more?

In many enterprises in life, activities are done in a team context. But teams must be assembled and managed well to be effective. A group of individuals operating separately on a task can outperform a poor team, but a good team can outperform the individuals. To achieve effective teams it is critical to provide training in a team-based manner, not just separately train the individuals serving on a team. Furthermore, training is best done in a real-time setting, not “unnaturalistically” or theoretically with a set of academic-like sequences in a classroom. There seem to be three critical components to proper team training:

  1. Designing the team for learning through embodying the right mix of expertise and skills in the collective members for the goal at hand
  2. Establishing an effective challenge to be met by the members as a whole, but delineating the critical role of each individual
  3. Assuring psychological safety for each team member by creating an environment in which individuals will not feel dumb or incompetent with their current ideas or their introduction of new ones.

Let’s look at team size, structure, and communication. Small teams usually work best and there is an anthropological basis for this. Hunter gatherers worked in teams of 5 or 6 maximum. The possible number of communication channels expand greatly with team size. For example, a team of two has one two- way channel, also known as dyadic communication. With three members in a team, there are 3 such possible dyadic channels. With four team members, there are 6 channels, and with five members the number of possible two-way, or dyadic, channels increases to 10. The beat goes on with larger team size, such that an eight member team has 28 possible two-way channels. It gets quite complex with both the sheer number of dyadic possibilities and the attendant process losses for each dyad. Once assembled, a critical component to team operational success resides in effective intra-team communication. From classical quartets, jazz combos, and rock groups, we learn two primary categories of communication that apply to many other enterprises outside the realm of music: verbal and non-verbal. Both the verbal and non-verbal manifest in three ways: as instruction, cooperation, and collaboration. This yields a total of six communication modes. Thoughts on these various modes are the subject of a follow-on discussion.

But there is more to the story on team size and operation. Small teams may work best operationally, but may not possess all the knowledge or skill for a given task. Larger teams have the possibility of having more composite knowledge. However, the smaller, more operationally efficient team can establish a process to gather information from outside the team and bring it back into the task. That may mean a simple transporting of outside knowledge, or temporarily including an outside member for a period of time. This and related processes work best if team members have transdisciplinary skills and knowledge. Transdisciplinary means more than cross-disciplinary, in that one interacts not just at the boundary between disciplines in a team of mixed expertise, but has enough knowledge, like the T-shaped person, to make a deeper foray into several other disciplines. It is worth each team member gaining such a skill for best team operation.

Not often expressed is another facet of a team. Let me express three categories: low-variance, medium variance, and high-variance teams. This idea comes from my paper “Coyotes, Jazz, and Creative Teams.” Variance is the deviation, or change, from a standard mode of operation or process. An example of a low-variance team is a surgical team, an airline crew, or a manufacturing team. Such a team is not prospecting for novelty or surprise, but is rather operating with a tight set of procedures to ensure success and safety. A low-variance team also trains for emergency contingencies to minimize, if not preclude, the need for improvisation or research. Emergencies must be handled quickly in time and such emergencies as a fire do not “age” well as time moves on. On the other hand, a high-variance team such as a design or research team or jazz combo is prospecting for novelty and surprise and thus operates less rigidly with a fair amount of improvisation. A medium-variance team lies in between. An example would be an orchestra that plays the written score, but adds variance through creative interpretation. Needless to say, each type of team requires different training, management, and operation.

Now, I have mentioned dyads. And there are also triads. Both are vital concepts and realities, but let’s stick with dyads for now. Like a lot of words, dyad has a few meanings, once of which was used above: the two-way communication between two people. There is also another meaning: a special relationship of long standing between two individuals. There are personal and professional examples of this type of dyad and sometimes a given dyad entails both personal and professional aspects. The dyad we now discuss requires trust, close communication, and equal status to work best. A well-functioning dyad is one of the most powerful forms of teams that exist. Famous examples include Lennon and McCartney; Lerner and Loewe; Gilbert and Sullivan; Cheech and Chong; Holmes and Watson; Roosevelt and Taft; Watson and Crick; Jobs and Wozniak. The list goes on.  We’ll stop at Cheech and Chong:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CWxgfTMLtc0

Note that while certainly complementary, the individuals of the dyad can have similar skills or quite different ones. That is worth noting. Another key point is that a dyad can lead to a powerful synergy unachievable by the two individuals separately. Or not. Dyads also tend to become unstable and acrimonious over time by virtue of the closeness and persistence of interaction required over long periods of time. Teams of three, the triad, can also produce their own pathologies, more so sometimes that can a dyad. Interestingly, teams of five often report the greatest satisfaction in their operation. But, long live the dyad.

I will briefly mention another type of team: the team of one. Please think on that idea for a while and stay tuned for an exposition in the near future.

Say something about the seminar series you are planning for the USA?

The dyad of Cook and Derickson has schemes to invade the USA with workshop seminars that aim to circumnavigate and then make a direct charge at the processes of innovation and creativity, borrowing from the ethnographies (fancy word for the study of the culture of an enterprise that entails human interaction) of Rock and Jazz. At the heart will be real-time, team-based learning exercises that engage with creativity and innovation, improvisation, and the “taming and harvesting” of randomness. A key aspect will be learning how to uncover knowledge we don’t even know we don’t know (unknown unknowns). Rather than presenting rigid, sequential rules, the seminars will elucidate and incorporate practical sets of guiding principles in the team-based exercises. Importantly, the seminars will entail heterogeneous groups of people from various disciplines rather than from a single discipline.

Pi- shaped - Dr Derickson and Master Cook

Pi- shaped – Dr Derickson and Master Cook

Have you got some takeaway bullet points for readers?

  • There are few, if any, silver bullets.
  • Improvisation is fun.
  • Teams can be fun.
  • You gotta work at it.
  • Start now.

NEXT WEEK OUR BLOG GOES OUT ON APRIL FOOL’S DAY 

BE PREPARED FOR SOME FUN

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About the Blog 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.

TMOB Udemy ONLINE

Two Tribes – Branding for different markets

One of the challenges of managing a brand with two distinctly different manifestations is the need for each of them to have the same strength and a distinctively different targeting. People that don’t know so much about our twin brands tend to think first of what I call our ‘high visibility’ brand - The Academy of Rock, which offers events that blend business ideas with music. As a result our business consultancy offering at Human Dynamics can get submerged under the hullabaloo of the more notorious aspects of what we offer. Importantly different customers or ‘tribes’ are interested in the two diffferent aspects of our work.  To serve them well, our brands need to clearly target the differing needs and wants of the ‘two tribes’, hence the title of this blog.

Contrasting brand images

Contrasting brand images

Conventional wisdom says that you cannot make videos about a serious business consultancy business, but I like to break rules, so we just made a video on Human Dynamics with i54 New Media.  Take a look:

Jeff Bezos at Amazon says that your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.  The next best thing to that is what they say willingly on Linkedin, so this was a great opportunity to bring some of this together.  Making films with 154 new media is really simple and quick.  Within 15 minutes, we had shot the video and the finished product was made in double quick time.  More importantly, the film has been pivotal in securing a creativity and innovation keynote at a conference in Malaysia.

Four branding lessons

  1. A brand is a shorthand intended to stop people thinking when they are making decisions under pressure. Just think of the advertising slogan “Beanz Meanz Heinz”.  In a busy and complicated world, it’s vital that you can convey your brand to others in minutes, preferably seconds.  Andy Warhol said “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes”.  In the internet age, that may have come down to 15 seconds.
  2. Brands convey the emotional more than the rational aspects of what your company does. They must rest on some firm foundations to be successful however.  In other words there should be no gap between brand perception and brand experience if you are to succeed.
  3. A brand must tell a story, which reaches people’s hearts, minds and souls if it is to be successful. We will be exploring the business of storytelling shortly on this blog.
  4. Get your followers to become brand representatives.  Their view of what you do is more important than your own and their marketing advocacy is free and more credible than that which you do yourself.  Amongst my various experiences with musicians, I sponsored a Spinal Tap inspired world tour for Punk Idol John Otway. Although the tour was a glorious failure, one of John’s great strengths is that his fanbase offer him an absolutely free marketing service and are passionate brand advocates.

An excellent 5th point arrived on Linkedin this morning, from Brian Shannon on the need to have a point of focus when managing multiple brands:

“When I was the VP of strategy for GlowWear. They had about 10 brand names they were trying to manage and the strategy was clear. Everybody buys clothes but the branding must match the demographic. Demographic = Brands”

Here’s a short video on branding:

Check out John Purkiss’ book on personal branding “Brand You” for some fascinating insights into personal branding.  Click on the picture to find out more:

Brand You

We finish with the title of this blog:

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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.

TMOB Udemy ONLINE

In The City – Rock unites the business world

Rock In The City Logo Purple Mid

Logo Design by Simon Heath – Social Media’s Quick Draw McGraw @simonheath1

Time for a mini update on the band that I’ve formed with Dr Andrew Sentance, former Monetary Policy Committee Member for The Bank of England.  Following the press announcements in the Evening Standard and City AM, we’ve attracted a motley crew of City based rockers and are set to organise a Rock meets Business event at a City location for charity.  The band is called RockInTheCity and the gig’s to be “In The City, By The City, For The City”.

Rockin' The City from West to East Haydn, Andrew, Bilal, Pete, Peter and Barry

Rockin’ The City from West to East Haydn, Andrew, Bilal, Pete, Peter and Barry

The core band members are:

  • Haydn Jones – Telecoms, Operational effectiveness, Bass
  • Dr Andrew Sentance – Senior Economic Adviser, PwC, Guitar, Vocals, Keyboards
  • Bilal Mustafa – Mergers, acquisitions, keyboards, electronica
  • Pete Stephens – Government, drums
  • Barry Monk – Marketing consultant, lead guitar, vocals
  • and myself on lead guitar and vocals

We will be augmented by a range of superb music professionals and there will be an opportunity for people attending our concerts to join the band for a bit of ‘spontaneous combustion’ on the night itself.  Find out more at our band webpage Rockinthecity and follow us on Twitter. We held our first practice at Andrew Sentance’s house the other week.  It would be invidious to reveal our set list, but here’s a few of the songs we jammed out to get our groove on.

  • Money – Pink Floyd
  • Purple Rain – Prince
  • Stairway to Heaven – Led Zeppelin
  • All along the watchtower – Jimi Hendrix

I may also try to get the band to accommodate a live performance of the economics rock anthem “Fiscal Cliff”, now available for download on Bandcamp.  The evening will be accompanied by an introductory keynote on music, business and money plus food and plenty of networking opportunities. We are now looking for a venue in the city and some sponsors for the event which will be run on a charitable basis.  Please get in touch via e-mail peter@humdyn.co.uk if you wish to support this initiative in a small or larger way.  This can be in terms of assistance with marketing, underwriting food, drinks, helping with the event delivery, providing the venue, public address system, lighting, stage crew or anything else you can think of.  Here’s an impression of our first practice:

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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.

Box Set 7

With the Beatles

Poetry in motion

Poetry in motion

A little break from business this week with a superb poem produced by my friend Dr Reg Butterfield in Vienna using titles and lyrics from songs by The Beatles.  Reg has just written a free book about change and natural systems.  Contact him for a copy.

Dear Prudence

Do you want to know a secret

Ask me why

There’s a place

I should have known better

I don’t want to spoil the party

I’ve just seen a face

Tell me what you see

You won’t see me

What goes on

Here there and everywhere

I want to tell you

With a little help from my friends

All together now

We can work it out

Across the universe

Crying, waiting, hoping

Lonesome tears in my eyes

Ooh! My eyes

Ooh! My soul

How do you do it

You know what to do

All things must pass

I should have known better

I’m a loser

Contact Reg for your copy of “Change – A Personal view” by clicking the picture

Click to get a free copy of the book

Click to get a free copy of the book

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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.

Box Set 7

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:

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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.

Box Set 7

Jamming in New York City

Here’s a link to a Radio interview we did with Dr Jackie Modeste and Dr Wesley J Watkins on Trading Fours on the theme of improvisation and innovation.  Just click the picture to listen in.

Click to listen to the radio show

Click to listen to the radio show

Here’s what Dr Modeste had to say about the interview highlights via Twitter:

  • Musicians understand the value of continuous practice to master their art.  In business we are often satisfied with one day’s CPD (Continuous Professional Development) per year.
  • Disruptive innovation can come from the marketplace in a wired world, with customers setting challenges for businesses that get stuck in a rut.
  • Failure to spot disruptive innovation can be life limiting for businesses.  Witness the examples of Sony and Kodak in the interview.
  • Musicians are often great storytellers.  In business we need to get better at getting everyone to put themselves into the company’s story, rather than trying to impose our own fairy tale on staff.

Thanks to Jackie and Wes for an engaging dialogue, which was unplanned and therefore more surprising and enjoyable for that.

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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 Leadership programme for FREE via The Music of Business Online.

screen-shot-2013-12-16-at-09-12-171.png

Desperately Seeking Bankers Who ROCK

Here’s a piece of recent press attention in The Evening Standard on a project I’m working on with Dr Andrew Sentance, former Monetary Policy Committee member at the Bank of England:

In the City - With Andrew Sentance

In the City – With Andrew Sentance

So, we’re looking out for City business people (Bankers, Tinkers, Tailors and so on -:) who play an instrument and would like to participate in an open mic music jam sessione.  We are also looking for a venue in the City to do this amazing event and anyone who might want to help with lighting, PA and so on.  How will this work I hear you asking?

  • We’ll supply a backline of equipment and some great musicians to support the evening
  • I will be bringing my bass playing friend John Howitt, who is a session musician who has played with Anastasia, Celine Dion and Shirley Bassey and a great drummer.  I’m sure Andrew will also bring some muso friends
  • We will work up a set list of songs that people might like to play in advance but the evening will also be open to more spontaneous contributions.  If individuals want to replace one or more of the backline members that’s fine or they can just add themselves as a soloist
  • We’re looking to do this easily in Spring to give time for a little bit of mental preparation and incubation

Any questions?  Get in touch.  For those about to rock the Bank of England, we salute you!!

In the spirit of the event, here’s one of the contenders for the performance:

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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

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:

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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 emotional leader

Ii you are a regular to this blog you will know I went to see Nigel Kennedy recently.  Have a look at this article which interviews the orchestra conductor Marin Alsop, who conducted the Kennedy concert at the Proms recently.

EQ and Orchestras

Emotional intelligence is a double edged sword in business.  Yes, leaders need to tune into the people they lead and understand their motivations, concerns and so on.  At the extreme, the emotionally intelligent leader is paralysed by feedback and cannot make tough decisions. So, where do you stand on the debate?  Is it better to be hard headed in business or sensitive to your stakeholders?  I know that’s an annoying journalistic styled ‘A or B’ type question for a hugely complex issue, so here’s a fence sitting position :-)  Or is there a middle ground?

POSTSCRIPT – I’ve been mightily impressed by  the quality of the debate on this blog so far and have decided to add the first two comments to the blog itself.  Grateful thanks to recent star of University Challenge Brian Clegg and Dr Reg Butterfield:

I think as a society we have serious problems if we really think ‘EQ is more important than IQ in this day and age.’ (BTW I skip over the fact that IQ is an almost meaningless number, I mean, rather, the intelligence it is supposed to measure.) In a technological society, that’s a recipe for collapse. ‘Hey, I don’t know how this machinery stuff works, but I sure empathise with it,’ will not fix your car/internet/central heating.

Of course the real answer is that both are important for different reasons. EQ is important to understand people and get the best out of them, IQ is important to understand the world and to keep technology running. In survival terms, EQ is valuable if the threat comes from other people, IQ if the threat comes from anything else. But going on all you see/hear in the news, I think in the West we’re doing just fine on EQ overall and could do with a good slug of IQ to balance it up.

Brian Clegg

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Most good managers have a healthy dose of narcissism or they would not have the self-confidence that a great leader or manager needs to be successful in the midst of chaos or adverse business conditions. It can provide the source of internal confidence that allows a leader to stand strong behind decisions and maintain a vision for the group in spite of challenges along the way.

However, I believe that it is the EQ element that prevents them from becoming too much of a controller and separates them from those who are ill. People who have a narcissistic personality illness normally exhibit at least five of the following traits:

  • Has a grandiose sense of self-importance
  • Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
  • Believes that he or she is “special” and unique
  • Requires excessive admiration
  • Has a very strong sense of entitlement
  • Is exploitative of others
  • Lacks empathy
  • Is often envious of others
  • Regularly shows arrogant, haughty behaviours or attitudes

I have worked with many managers who border on such an illness and yet were perceived to be successful by their CEOs or shareholders. These people tend to ignore feedback, are unable to let go of control, often believe that technical skills are more important than one’s leadership skills and so on. They also tend to undermine their own people because they cannot stay out of the low-level details of the team’s daily tasks.

EQ has been around forever and business people have known about it for many years thanks to the work of Daniel Goleman. If managers are able to harness their narcissistic tendencies and apply the following traits from EQ, then I believe that we have a good balance between the debate about EQ and the narcissistic approach to leadership and management:

  • Recognise what’s going on for oneself (one’s moods, feelings, thoughts, and reactions)
  • Read what’s going on for others (their moods, feelings, thoughts, situation, and reactions)
  • Respond in a way that is most appropriate, based on the environment and the people in it

By the way, isn’t that what a good musician does?  [Author comment - Yes, as with good leaders]

If we professionals use ‘client-centred consultancy skills’ combined with a ‘process consultancy’ approach (Edgar Schein) we can help leaders and managers achieve this balance.

Dr Reg Butterfield

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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

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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