Spirit in the sky – The circuitry of networking

It’s been a manic few weeks so I thought I’d write a blog about the gentle art of networking (and a little bit of luck!).  Check out the previous post in this area at A day in the life.  Our networking journey begins at an annual conference we delivered for the Institute of Circuit Technology, sponsored by Spirit Circuits.  That gives us our title.  Let’s travel back in time to the swinging 60′s, purely for some gratuitous psychedelic pop by Norman Greenbaum:

Spirit Circuits are an amazing printed circuit board manufacturing business.  The things that separate them from the crowd include a recognition of the word customer in everything they do and their ability as a smaller business to work globally.  An example of their exceptional customer service is their “Go Naked” offering.  This is a bespoke circuit board design service for small business entrepreneurs who cannot afford to manufacture circuit boards for new products.  Steve Driver, Spirit Circuits’ CEO offers this service on the basis that “small acorns sometimes grow into mighty oaks”.  In terms of their global footprint, Spirit Circuits have pioneered a number of innovative partnerships with China, rather than attempting to compete with this growing economy.  It’s perhaps a case of ‘being inside the tent p…..ing out, rather than outside the tent p…..ing in’.

Spirit Circuits asked me to deliver a keynote event for the Institute entitled ‘Myths and Riffs of Leadership’.  After the event, I found myself jamming into the night with Printed Circuit Board business owners as if I had known them for years.  Playing music really does beat social networking etc. as a means of establishing business bonds that last!  Here’s a clip of ‘Steve Driver and The Circuit Breakers’ performing “The PCB blues”:

Additionally, I was able to put Spirit Circuits in touch with a BBC journalist for the World Service who specialises in Chinese affairs.  Watch this space for developments in what Level 42 would call “The Chinese Way”.

It also occurred to me that there must have been a spirit in the sky the other day.  I had gone to Rochester Castle to meet a client for a coffee, when I bumped into David Sillito, the BBC’s arts correspondent, who was making a news item on a new BBC costume drama.  David had previously made a feature on a ‘School of Rock’ event for a Primary School, which the Headmistress said was pivotal in improving exam performance for the children.  Check out the feature from BBC Breakfast News:

David remembered the School of Rock event with some fondness.  As a result of our brief encounter, I gave him a copy of Punk Rock People Management with a view to developing a feature on simple, jargon free and authentic Human Relations.   Goodness knows, there’s a need for that in most companies I get invited into these days! :-)

What do I get - Punk Rock HR - the contents page

Get your full colour print copy or Amazon Kindle version of Punk Rock People Management, which hit number 1 in the Amazon chart for management / HR books the other week, above books by Dave Ulrich and Sir John Whitmore.  Mail me for a free electronic version of the book.  Or come over to the 7th international HR conference in Athens on 19th October, where Demis Roussos with meet Gary Hamel and Johnny Rotten, metaphorically speaking…

I kissed an HR girl and I liked it - photo courtesy of http://www.lindsaywakelinphotography.com

“Livin’ Lovin’ Maid” – Maria McCarthy – Author, Rocker, Led Zeppelin fan

Introducing the Livin’ Lovin’ Maid Maria McCarthy, massive Led Zeppelin fan and author of strange fruits – a new book of poems which offer surprising glimpses into our 21st-century lives – the ‘strange fruits’ of our civilisation or lack of it.  Shot through with meditations on the past and her heritage as ‘an Irish girl and English woman’.  The book can be found on Amazon with proceeds going to Macmillan Cancer.

Strange Fruits - Maria Mc Carthy

Maria has been a long term advocate of music where I live in Kent and it turns out that she appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Home Truths, programme, the home of the legend that is John Peel.  Maria told the story of her infatuation with Led Zeppelin when growing up and I’ve decided to post the story here, following the exceptional reaction to the previous post on Led Zeppelin.  Let’s get the Led out before we get started on Maria’s story:

So here’s Maria’s story of her infatuation with Led Zeppelin and the personal consequences of that infatuation.  I must say I made a similar mistake with T.REX albums, giving them away to a girlfriend in a moment of madness brought on by love but we’ll save that for later…

Robert was my first rock sex God. I had him plastered on my teenage bedroom wall in various stage poses; copious hair flying and shirt ripped open in mid-performance. I later wondered if perm lotion and Carmen rollers had a part to play in those curls, and if the bulge in his Levis was artificially enhanced, like the guy in Spinal Tap with the salami down his trousers. But when I was seventeen, a picture of Plant set in motion the female equivalent of my mojo rising.

In our first year of courting, my husband-to-be and I went to the legendary Knebworth concert where we experienced the glory of Plant and Page in the flesh. And when we moved in together we each had a full set of twelve inch Zepps that snuggled side by side in our newly combined collections. Robert Plant even attended the birth of our second child; he was singing Big Log, of all things, through the headphones of my cassette Walkman as I gave the final push (Editor’s note – no picture provided).

When we outgrew our two-bedroom flat, we sold some of the records to raise a deposit on a house. It made sense, I know. I was nearly thirty, and it was time to put away childish things. There were new priorities.  Two Frampton Comes Alive became one, the by then unfashionable Phil Collins was discarded, and the Zeppelins reduced to one set. We kept my husband’s copies because his signature on the sleeves was a no-no for record dealers.

We moved from London to Kent with our two girls, three cats and one record collection. 800 vinyl albums and countless seven inch singles, requiring special treatment during the move. The boxes were not to be stacked and were marked “Handle With Care.”   But after eight years, I’d had enough of the collections, filling the house from loft to cellar. I had married a hoarder; an obsessive collector of not just records, but also stamps and model trains, videos and music magazines. The house that I had once found spacious became cramped. Where was my space? If I tried clearing things out, to find a haven for my treasured possessions and indeed for myself, he’d go through the boxes destined for the charity shop, and take his stuff back out. I decided it was time for division.

The girls stayed with me along with the cats and some of the records.  My mother was appalled when he took the recliner chair for his new house. There was genuine anguish in her voice when she said, “How could he split the three piece suite?” For me it was the loss of half my Led Zeppelin collection.  When it came to dividing the Zepps I was bequeathed Led Zeppelin Three, Four, and Presence.

I gradually removed the excess shelving from the house. I wanted a slimline life, uncluttered. My love of record collecting was also a thing of the past. For years I was unable to look at second hand records. That was his place; kneeling on the floor at boot fairs, riffling through other people’s former treasures.

Then I met a new man. Whilst wandering around the small Surrey town where he lives, I was enticed by a sign leading down an alleyway to “Vinyl Hideaway”. Before I knew it, I was asking for Zeppelin, like a child starved of sweets, and boxes were laid before me by the two vinyl anoraks who owned the store. We were soon exchanging Zepp stories. They were in awe of my Knebworth experience, shocked at the loss of half my Zeppelins, and I in turn was stunned by their knowledge and extensive collection of first pressings, imports and bootlegs.

I left £23 lighter, clutching Houses of the Holy and Physical Graffiti – double album gatefold, a picture of a tenement building with cut out windows on the cover, filled with the letters spelling out the title on the insert. I would have bought more, but they didn’t take credit cards.  I walked down the High Street with my LP-shaped carrier bag. Chuffed, in the way that I used to be as a teenager when I carried my Harlequin Records bag before me, so everyone would know I had new records.

With my collection partially restored, my resentment over the great record collection split of 1996 is fading. My forty-sixth birthday brought me Led Zeppelin Two from my lover, and today’s acquisition leaves only Led Zeppelin One, The Song Remains the Same and Coda. Of course, after that there are Robert Plant’s solo albums.

Maria McCarthy’s book strange fruits can be found on Amazon, with proceeds going to Macmillan Cancer.  You can find more about her at Cultured Llama and Medway Maria.  Since Maria mentioned the great Spinal Tap, we’ll end with this piece on them, which satirises Jimmy Page’s guitar bowing technique and the use of multiple guitars.  Watch out for a post on Spinal Tap and Project Management in a few weeks time.  Oh yes and do check out our new FREE book PUNK ROCK PEOPLE MANAGEMENT OUT  - Led Zeppelin even get a mention in it.  For more Heavy Metal Business articles – check SPINAL TAP on project management, DEEP PURPLE on improvisation, LED ZEPPELIN on strategy

 

Deep Purple in Rock: Improvisation and discipline in Business

Deep Purple In Rock

The hard rock band Deep Purple are responsible for millions of young boys camping out in music shops trying to play the riff to ‘Smoke on the Water‘.  At the age of 14 I used to sit at the top of the stairs at home in the darkness trying to figure out the riff with my Hofner Futurama guitar and 10 Watt Zenta amp, until my mum would shout me to come down to get my fish finger sandwiches.  Aside from these problems, Deep Purple offer us a great example of improvisation and discipline in action in the context of a rock outfit.  The Mark II incarnation of the band is generally considered to be perhaps the definitive lineup, but also the most volatile.  Much of the conflict within Deep Purple arose from Ritchie Blackmore, their phenomenal virtuoso guitarist and moody maverick.  Check out Deep Purple Mark II’s work when jamming here:

In this extract from ‘Mandrake Root’ we see the art of improvisation within a disciplined structure as Blackmore sends musical instructions (using his arms as a baton ! ) to the keyboard player Jon Lord, to repeat and develop certain lines (This is particularly obvious around 48 seconds onwards).  He also sends orders to the rhythm section of Ian Paice and Roger Glover with respect to starts and stops within the music (around 1 minute 50 seconds).  Blackmore’s signs are perhaps more aggressive than those used by Prince to change direction at short notice within the band :-)  What then are the parallel lessons for business from Deep Purple?   Here’s three to get the discussion started – Please add your own views by commenting on the blog.

1. Innovation in business requires discipline as much as it does creativity:  Creativity to come up with novel strategies; Discipline to execute them, so that ideas turn into profitable innovations.  Companies such as Google, 3M and Innocent may seem to be all about creativity at first glance, but a deeper inspection reveals discipline and structure, even if that structure does not emanate from ‘management’ in all cases.  Giving people 20% of their time to work on speculative projects is the business equivalent of a free form jam within Space Truckin’, Lazy, Mistreated and many other pieces of Deep Purple’s repertoire.

2. It requires extremely strong leadership and a compelling shared vision to hold diverse people together.  To encourage a company that continuously learns / adapts and improvises into the future requires leadership that is precise on the destination, yet loose on the journey.  We’ve seen this point before in my blog posts on Led Zeppelin and Prince.

3. Conflict will occur where there is diversity / divergence.  It must be handled properly if progress is to be made.  Ultimately Blackmore’s maverick behaviour proved too much for the band, especially the singer Ian Gillan, and despite several reunions, the band proved impossible to hold together.  There have been many arguments to suggest that what Deep Purple Mark II needed was a manager who could hold the various personalities together and perhaps some time off from touring.

What else do you consider we can learn from Deep Purple about business, innovation, conflict and so on?  Share your thoughts by making a comment to this blog.

Editor’s postscript:  My thoughts go out to Jon Lord who is currently fighting cancer.  Although I am a guitar player, it was Jon Lord’s innovative organ playing that led to my fanaticism with Deep Purple.  Hoping things progress well.

To finish, here’s another piece by Deep Purple’s Mark II line up, the famous California Jam performance where Ritchie Blackmore destroys several guitars and sets fire to his amplifiers.  I can’t immediately think of a transferable corporate lesson from this sequence but it sure is fun.  Takes me back to my teenage years with the Zenta amp on all the way up and me smashing the guitar into the speaker trying to coax some feedback out of the amp!

For more Heavy Metal Business articles – check SPINAL TAP on project management and LED ZEPPELIN on strategy.  Check out our conferences and events – where we extract business lessons from the Deep Purple classic ‘Smoke on the Water’ amongst many other things.  Come along to one of our ‘Monsters of Rock Business’ events, featuring Bernie Torme, who played guitar for Ian Gillan.   Take a look at one of these as featured on Bloomberg TV.

Our new book “The Music of Business” is available to order at AMAZON.CO.UK, AMAZON.COM, and KINDLE.  To sample the book have a look at a sneak preview or visit the book WEBSITE.

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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

Three top Rock’n’Roll business tips – From Abba to Queen and Bananarama

As part of an occasional series of blogs, I will bring you some great tips on business, extrapolated from the lyrics of great rock and pop songs, sometimes wildy so!  There are many more examples in the book ‘Sex, Leadership and Rock’n’Roll’, acclaimed by Tom Peters.  Today’s Rock’n’Roll Business tips focus on the area of interpersonal relationships.

Rock'n'Roll Wisdom mixed with top business thinking

Let’s start with 70’s Swedish glam classicists Abba with their song ‘Knowing me, knowing you aha’.

In my Rock’n’Roll world, this innocent phrase is an allusion to the concept of ‘emotional intelligence’, as Daniel Goleman puts it.  I’d put EI more plainly as:

‘Living inside your own head AND outside it’

Great leaders / musicians are able to do BOTH i.e. they exhibit personal mastery whilst maintaning a connection with those around them.  Bad leaders / musicians often live inside their own heads, not noticing their impact on others.  Let’s have your thoughts in the comments on ways in which you can develop the systematic habit of inner and outer awareness?

From Freddie Mercury, we get the evergreen hit ‘The Great Pretender’.  What business wisdom can we read into these three words?  Well, it reminds me of the issues of leadership style and authenticity.  Leadership requires us to be a master of style.  Dictator, salesperson, facilitator, confidant, comedian, entertainer, counsellor and so on.  Importantly, you should know your own range so that you don’t have to end up ‘faking it’.  Lou Reed wisely observed “I do me better than anyone else” on the question of authenticity.  What do you consider the practical business implications of Mercury’s cover to be?

Finally, in the world of interpersonal relationships, the ‘how’ is often much more important than the ‘what’.  In other words, the journey is more important than the destination.  It’s what Bananarama sang about in their hit ‘It ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it (that’s what gets results)’.  A seemingly trivial point, but one with massive impact if you need to get results through others or influence people to change.   Please share your tips on how you place value on the ‘how’ when working with others in the comments to this blog.

For fun, what might be the ‘hidden business message’ in this song by Abba?

Share your answers on the blog comments and I will award a copy of Sex, Leadership and Rock’n’Roll to the most strange and wonderful one.  Entries close on 31 July 2011.

For more Rock’n’Roll tips visit The Academy of Rock website and click on ‘ROCK WISDOM’ on the front page.  Join the blog to receive regular updates on business mixed with ideas from the world of music.

One day in heaven – One small step for children

Peter Cook leads the after dinner keynote musical experience: Sex, Customer Service and Rock'n'Roll

I had the privilege of sharing the stage recently with Heather Small, lead singer of M-People, as the before and after dinner speakers / performers at the Customer Service Training Network (CSTN) Awards.   As well as being a mighty fine singer, Heather works for Barnardo’s and a number of charities.  She gave an impassioned speech about the work of the charity, encapsulated in the words of her song ‘What have you done today to make you feel proud?’

This also provided us with the challenge of ‘follow that’, since we had the slot afterwards to fill.  Just as well that I took our ‘secret ingredient’ in the form of Sam Laming.  Sam has two great passions, extreme sports and playing original music from Ukraine on his 32 stringed Bandura.   Here is Sam pictured up Ben Nevis, having hauled the heavy instrument to the top of the peak.  Imagine the reaction of 600 corporate executives when we arrived with the instrument at the Sofitel Hotel in Heathrow.

Sam Laming on Ben Nevis with Bandura

During the keynote, I discussed service excellence from several perspectives, dwelling on the work of Tom Peters and First Direct’s approach to banking which puts the p word (personal) back into personal banking.  We then turned to the question of personal mastery and unleashed Sam’s Ukrainian folk songs on the unsuspecting audience of 600 people.   Watch Sam’s live rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody, played on a ukelele.

So, in their completely different ways, Heather Small and Sam demonstrated personal excellence at the awards ceremony.  I was indeed proud to have been there alongside them. Creativity, a willingness to exceed personal boundaries and not being afraid to surprise others are all qualities of excellence and the event was an exemplar of this.  All thanks to Don Hales for inviting us to speak and perform at the awards.  We are delivering another event for the CSTN soon entitled ‘Myths and Riffs of Leadership’.

'Like a virgin' - A delegate experiencing stage fright during the 'Customer Service Blues'

We will brand you – Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Madonna, Unilever and Prince on branding

What can we learn from the crazy world of Rock’n’Roll about branding? One way to think about a brand is a kind of ‘shorthand’ designed to stop consumers from thinking about anything else other than your brand / product. Get branding right and you have customers for life. Get it wrong and you may never take off in business.

Take a look at this ‘basement video’ I made with my colleague Phil Hawthorn to understand the power of brands. We look at Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Nike, Madonna, Pepsi and Prince in this short video.

Unilever is a particularly interesting example of a brand which has managed to preserve the diversity of its many different operating companies, which, in their own words:

“We meet everyday needs for nutrition, hygiene and personal care with brands that help people feel good, look good and get more out of life”

This is exemplified down to the last detail in the logo for Unilever, which sells products from Dove, to Lipton Tea, to Ben and Jerry’s ice cream and the logo carries meanings which include freshness, love, beauty, science, farming, freedom and so on – a pretty tall order for any corporation to live up to, but a mighty ambition nonetheless.

The ultimate test of a brand is the extent to which it enables your company to have longevity as Unilever have demonstrated over 120 years. To see what I mean through the power of music, take a look at the 45 year old brand that is Pink Floyd:

And finally, purely for fun, the word branding began simply as a way to tell one person’s cattle from another by means of a hot iron stamp. In a moment of musical madness, my Country and Western Glam Rock band (The Cowpokers) took this lesson literally, in a satirical pastiche of the classic Queen song ‘We Will Brand You’. The audience is initially deluded into thinking that the drum track will be exactly as the original, but later on find out that it is not and the audience develop a form of ‘arrhythmic distress’ ….

We are speaking / performing about brands and customer service at the Customer Service Training Awards on Friday 08 July at Heathrow. Check out our starter menu of corporate event offerings for your next conference at R U EXPERIENCED

School of Rock: Can rappers save education?

I previously wrote on how rappers can save the economy, now it seems that the School of Rock has entered the classroom. Check this BBC programme out, which shows just how effective education can be when it borrows accelerated learning strategies from the School of Rock:

Can Rappers save Education?

Education works when our minds, bodies and souls are fully engaged, as some primary school kids found out when we ran a School of Rock event with the BBC, to help them succeed in exams.

The headteacher said that as well as significantly improving relationships in the classroom, the event made an impact on borderline children in terms of their ability to succeed in their exams.

So whether it’s rap, rock, jazz fusion or hip hop, the message is, “cut the crap and start the rap if you want to get on up in life or business”.