Innovation Excellence – Calling all firestarters

This week, I have a great opportunity for writers, musicians and business leaders.  I have just been appointed “Rock’n’Roll Innovation Editor” for a US based Global Innovation Company called Innovation Excellence.  The company is run by Julie Anixter, who worked with Tom Peters and Seth Godin amongst other leading business thinkers around the world.  Innovation Excellence is the most popular innovation website in the world with over 10 000 readers per day and counting.  As part of my job there, I am planning interviews with people in the coming year such as Ahmet Ertegun’s biographer, CEO of Atlantic Records, Bill Nelson, Professor Adrian Furnham, Bernie Torme, Sir Richard Branson and Sir Paul McCartney.  We’re starting shortly with a piece about the enigma that is Richard Strange, leader of proto-punk pop-art group The Doctors of Madness and perhaps punk’s godfather,

So, what then does the Rock’n’Roll Innovation Editor do?  Good question!  You don’t see many RNR Innovation Editors on the staff at the Financial Times or the New York Herald Tribune!  My job is to interview, write or commission articles with any of the following types of people:

  • Innovative musicians – Names that spring to mind include Robert Fripp, Lady Gaga, Brian Eno, Madonna – people who have either innovated within music or are gamechangers in the music industry.
  • Innovation leaders – Especially those who get the idea that innovative leadership requires both discipline and improvisation – Virgin, Toyota, First Direct, Google, 3M, The Eden Project spring immediately to mind.
  • Innovation authors and academics – Again those who have a ‘Rock’n’Roll outlook’ on the subject – Brian Clegg, Tom Peters, Adrian Furnham et al are on my list of suspects here.

Innovation Excellence is also open to sponsors who wish to help build the best educational resource in the world for innovation.  Contact me via e-mail at peter@humdyn.co.uk to see what’s on offer.

So, in the warped words of the hymn “Come all ye faithful … and also a healthy dose of firestarters …”  Drop me a line and let’s see if we can create a guest article or interview.

Speaking of firestarters, time to finish with a bit of that…

Black Sabbath – The Power of Music

There are very few things in business and life that have such awesome power that they cause the Catholic Church to attempt to ban them. Music is one exception. Read on after taking a look at the awesome power that is Black Sabbath:

Black Sabbath came not from leafy suburbs of Surrey, nor did they study classical music at Oxford or Cambridge. They crawled out from the gutters of the industrial heartland of Birmingham, with three degrees in classic rock. Their music reflected a much harsher upbringing. Pioneers of the music genre called heavy metal, their music conjured up images of grime, paranoia and … devil worship, according to some. Let me explain.

Sabbath’s title song from their first album ‘Black Sabbath’ contains a musical riff that uses the musical tritone, or the so-called ‘devil’s interval’ – the sixth note of the musical scale. Unlike the major scale (do re me fa so la ti do for the non musical readers) the tritone was considered so powerful that the Catholic Church attempted to ban composers from using the note in the 16th Century. Remember that music was largely an act of patronage at this time, the monarch and the Church were much more connected, society was much more superstitious and the enlightenment had not happened. Put simply, physics had not happened. Had the Catholic Church followed the work of Maxwell, Hertz, Faraday et al they would have realised that you cannot ‘ban’ electromagnetic radiation!

So how did Sabbath get the “Riff” and was there a devilish intervention at work?  Guitarist Tony Iommi had an accident in which he lost the tips of two fingers on his right hand and he almost gave up playing the guitar. He capped the missing digits with thimbles made from plastic and covered in leather. He had to use lighter strings and detune them so he could grip them easily with the capped fingers. This combination gave a dark and foreboding sound and Iommi came up with the riff after a comment from Butler as he watched people queue to watch a Boris Karloff film.  He said it was “strange people would pay money to be scared” The rest as they say is history with Osborne and Butler adding powerful lyrics.

Black Sabbath’s ‘riff’, when written down in musical notation, sort of makes up the number 666, hence the notion that it would summon up the devil.  That’s why you won’t hear Kylie Minogue or Katy Perry using the tritone …  Whilst popular rumour suggested that Sabbath conducted live sacrifices and so on, they were more into drinking in pubs than drinking blood! Ah well, that’s music marketing for you. Here’s a little video I made that proves for the first time that the devil’s interval is harmless to animals:

Just to add more to this fascinating story The Rockefeller Foundation conducted research into psychosocial stress to produce “mass hysteria” and found the sound wave that caused this to be A=440/741hz.  Which is the same note as the Solfeggio (That’s the Devil’s Interval to you and me) banned by the Catholic Church and by coincidence the riff Iommi came up with for the song Black Sabbath. So was there devilish intervention at work or not?

Nonetheless, it’s interesting that music has such power. I will leave you with another Sabbath Classic, which also contains another ‘evil’ riff, using the flattened fourth, in the middle of the song:

Special thanks to Tom Hughes for co-writing this blog – Tom is a leadership trainer, enthusiasm generator and general music fanatic – Find him on Twitter @Thomas2BHughes

For more Heavy Metal Business articles – check SPINAL TAP on project management, DEEP PURPLE on improvisation, LED ZEPPELIN on strategy

10 Rock’n’Roll Business Tips

Here’s a short post in the form of 10 pieces of business wisdom, summarised through the words and music of rock music, presented in a PowerPoint show.  To get the show go to ROCK WISDOM  and click on the icon ‘Download Rock Wisdom’.

To whet your appetite, here are some of the 10 tips, without their business lessons to ensure you go look at the show – it’s worth it.

The great pretender – Queen

Puppet on a string – Sandie Shaw

The great escape – Blur

Video killed the radio star – Buggles

This town ain’t big enough for the both of us – Sparks

Purely for pleasure, let’s see one of the points on marketing made musically by the genius that is Prince, in the form of ‘U Got The Look’ from his seminal album ‘Sign O’ The Times’:

If you like the slideshow, you will love Punk Rock People Management.  This new book recently overtook Dave Ulrich, Gary Hamel and the usual HR Gurus, having hit No 1 on Amazon Kindle in management and HR books.   There are a number of options available to get your copy:

Beautiful full colour print version

Kindle version – UK

Kindle Version – Worldwide

FREE pdf version of the book by e-mail

The print version of the book makes an excellent and unique Christmas present.  Check this review out by the Open University Businsss School.  I recently presented a copy of the book to Evan Davies, BBC presenter of The Today programme and Dragons Den.

I’ll leave you with another musical version of one of the 10 Rock / Business lessons from the slide deck, from Blur, in the form of ‘The Universal’ from their ‘Great Escape’ album:

In the lap of the Greek Gods: Sex, Networking and Rock’n’Roll

Strange things happen at work and in life if you keep your eyes, ears and various other orifices open …  So it was that a series of networking coincidences happened on my recent trip to Greece to give keynotes on leadership, marketing and HR in Athens recently for Boussias Communications.   As the title of my post suggests, we should start with the simply fabulous song ‘In the lap of the Gods’ by Queen:

My journey to Athens began by sitting next to the British Ambassador for Greece on the plane to Athens (but I never got any Ferrero Rocher chocolates!) Once he got over his first impression that I might be a busker and not an author/speaker/business consultant, we got on rather well.  Seems that we had both studied Ancient Greek and Latin, although our careers took rather different paths from then on.   I asked him if there were any good restaurants around the Intercontinental hotel and he replied wistfully “Not really, it’s a pretty unpromising area really, full of strip clubs and brothels” – He was right – I attach a picture of the view from my swimming pool on the 8th floor – I imagine that the “Kinky Opera” must be an art gallery ! :-) Reminds me a little of my blog post on the 3B’s of Reward – The Bar, The Bathroom and The Brothel.

View from the top - Sex, Diplomacy and Rock'n'Roll

The conference coincided with a general strike in Greece and as a result I was asked if I could devise a keynote at one day’s notice for the marketing conference.  As a result ‘We will brand you’ was born.  As a consequence I also got to meet the wonderful Richard Laermer – outrageous New York PR expert, all round provocateur and author of Punk Marketing – An excellent companion read to Punk Rock People Management.  What is the statistical likelihood of this chance encounter happening?  Turns out that I was able to connect Richard with my other great PR expert friend in NYC – Ellie Becker.  This networking coincidence was a product of social media and face to face contact, which demonstrates that we need both to turn networking into business.

The conference also enabled me to meet Professor Adrian Furnham, who I have admired for a number of years.  Adrian was struck by my infusion of HR academia and rock music so much that he said he would write a piece about Punk Rock People Management in the Sunday Times.  I am indeed honoured.

The Marketing Director and HR Director events were extremely enjoyable, not least because they involved performances with two talented and beautiful women – one a mystery woman from L’Oreal and Pamela Caravas who is MD of Coaching Evolution.  Pamela is pictured below with the amazing Dr Yiannis Kalogerakis and Yannis Kouris.

 

Because she's worth it

Lady sings the blues ...

The lessons from this happy series of accidents are:

  1. You make your own luck by keeping your eyes, ears etc. open
  2. Both social media and traditional networking skills are required to turn networking opportunities into business
  3. Blend a deliberate approach to networking with an intuitive outlook

‘Punk Rock People Management – A no-nonsense guide to hiring, inspiring and firing staff’ is available via the Punk Rock People Management webpage.  If you like this blog, you will also LOVE my other book ‘Sex, Leadership and Rock’n’Roll’.  Contact us to book your next conference keynote based on our heady mixture of business and music.  We have a free event on Punk Rock HR coming up for Senior HR people at the CIPD on November 24 – contact me for details if you wish to attend.

Finally, I still dream of going to the Ambassador’s Ball and getting my fair share of the Ferrero Rocher chocolates.  Oh well, one can dream…  Next, it’s off to meet Evan Davis from the BBC’s Today Programme and Dragons Den – I wonder what networking accidents will occur en route? ! :-)  It all comes down to Sex, Networking and Rock’n’Roll in the warped words of Ian Dury:

 

Pretty Vacant – 10 Punk Rock Business Management Tips

I kissed an HR girl and I liked it ...

We live in lean times.  Lean times call for lean thinking.  Punk Rock is all about brevity, simplicity and authenticity.   So, here for your viewing pleasure are 10 Punk Rock People Management tips (well, there may be more or less than 10!), from some self proclaimed HR Punk Rock gals and HR Rock Chicks, presented in a slideshare show:

PUNK ROCK BUSINESS WISDOM  – If you don’t use slideshare you can also find the slideshow at  I kissed an HR girl and I liked it

If you have not yet got your copy of Punk Rock People Management, now is a good time to do this.  The book recently overtook Dave Ulrich, Gary Hamel and the usual HR Gurus, having hit No 1 on Amazon Kindle in management and HR books.   There are a number of options:  Beautiful full colour print version,    Kindle version – UK,      Kindle Version – Worldwide.  The print version of the book makes an excellent and unique Christmas present.  Check this review out by the Open University Businsss School.  The contents page can be found here:

Lean People Management for Lean times

We’re off to deliver an HR keynote at the 7th international HR conference in Athens next week following on from Dave Ulrich and Lynda Gratton of London Business School.  To warm up for this, let’s finish with some classic punk – Pretty Vacant, a song which clearly predicted the current HR obsession with employee disengagement in its title! :-)

Pictures courtesy of Lindsay Wakelin PhotographySue Cook and book design by PDS Hamiltons

Spinal Tap, John Otway and the not so gentle art of project mis-management

You could attend a 3 week executive masterclass to learn the principles of project management.  To learn about the practical stuff could take you a lifetime and involve learning from expensive mistakes as well as successes.  So, is there a way to learn about Project Management quickly and without risk by examining the spoof rockumentary ‘This is Spinal Tap’.  Of course there is! :-)  Let’s examine the classic ‘Stonehenge’ sequence to get us started:

It’s obvious to me as a Taphead and sad business consultant with an MBA that the Spinal Tap sequence is a sorry tale of poor project management… :-)  Just before the sequence starts a drawing of Stonehenge is drawn on a napkin by Nigel Tuffnell, the group’s guitarist and handed to the scenery designer.  This is unwittingly taken by the designer as a definitive project specification.  All the project resources are committed to the ‘model’ based on the dimensions (in inches).  The band is then forced to execute their strategy using a micro Stonehenge model, due to lack of budget to correct the mistake.   They attempt to accommodate the mistake in size by using dwarfs and bringing the Stonehenge model down from the heavens, but it is clear that they have failed.  You may rightly say “Well, this is a Hollywood comedy movie and nothing like real life”.  Au contraire, as a I break into French, as if to make the point seem more important – if I had a dollar for every company that has told me they have wasted millions on poorly specified projects that resulted in delivery of the wrong thing, I would have retired and you would not be reading this blog.  The comparison of the ‘project management gospel according to Business and Spinal Tap’ summarises this:

The Project Management Gospel according to Spinal Tap vs Business

Spinal Tap Business Lesson # 1.  If you are experiencing problems in executing a project, look back several stages to the project definition or proposal.  Fuzzy goals produce fuzzy action.

I had my own ‘Spinal Tap’ moment when I made a large investment of money and time in ‘cult punk rocker and two hit wonder’ John Otway’s World Tour, having done corporate gigs with John at Pfizer and the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).  This was a wonderful idea to live the Rock’n’Roll dream on a record breaking world tour, calling at the greatest venues on the planet with a birth, death and car crash all in two weeks, but not necessarily in that order.  The idea was great, so what went wrong?  Poor execution of the strategy killed the project dead.  Watch the trailer video to see the essence of the project idea:

Read more about the comedy of errors that was John Otway’s world tour at The Real Spinal Tap Tour.  What was the project management lesson?

Spinal Tap Business Lesson # 2. Inspiration is essential for innovation, but perspiration is even more important to turn your ideas into profit!  Bright ideas are plentiful but people who are prepared to sweat it out are rarer.

Check out our seminar offerings based on project management lessons from the John Otway World Tour at The F Word.  A recent article about the self-proclaimed ‘Patron Saint of Failure’ can be seen in The Independent.  Check out our posts on real heavy rock bands – Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Prince and our evening out with Bernie Torme.

My new book ‘Punk Rock People Management – A no-nonsense guide to hiring, inspiring and firing staff’ is available for FREE as a pdf.  Please contact me directly here or via the Punk Rock People Management webpage for your copy.  A beautiful full colour print version and a KINDLE version are is also available.

We’ll finish with another classic Spinal Tap song, Big Bottom, a metaphorical tale about the bottom line…

Postscript – I was just sent this additional video by my Web guru Nick Power of ‘The Folksmen’ – faces seem familiar?

“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