AC/DC and high voltage performance

Ever been to an AC/DC concert? What can we learn from AC/DC about business and high voltage performance? Check this video out:

AC/DC start a concert as if they are already on the encore. What would happen if you started your meetings as if they were all over before they started? With difficult decisions taken, staff energised, excited and engaged about their part in the business? It’s a different approach to the anticlimax approach to business meetings. Let’s look at another deeper lesson from AC/DC with powerful implications for business.

Before I get into trouble here, let me say that I love AC/DC’s work, having first seen them in 1975 at Gravesend Woodville Halls, when I was just inches away from Angus Young and Bon Scott. Life was never the same… But, in my opinion as a musician, AC/DC’s success lies in the fact that they have not really innovated to a great degree. More or less the same three chords arranged in a different order over 35 years, with a classic sound that has kept people coming back for more of the same. Slightly harsh you may say? Well, what I mean by this is that AC/DC have not switched genres – they have not ‘done’ Country and Western, rap or dealt with space themes such as David Bowie. This has given them immense success from people who like their consistency. What Tom Peters calls ‘sticking to the knitting’ has served them very well indeed. AC/DC’s album ‘Back in Black’ was the 2nd highest selling album in history, after ‘Thriller’ by Michael Jackson. So, what has this to do with business strategy?

In business, whilst it pays to have a strong culture / brand such as Ryanair , love ’em or loathe ’em and Ikea, when the market changes, a very strong culture can fail to adapt. We saw examples of this with Sony, who did not spot downloading because they had a record company and Marks and Spencer, who lost hold of the market and refused to take credit cards for many years with disastrous consequences. So a strong culture and unchanging brand and business offering CAN be a route to commercial success, but companies ALSO need to learn how to adapt and become a true learning organisation if they are to survive and thrive in a turbulent economy. We looked at Prince in the previous blog as someone who has adapted and largely kept his audience base, even though he has probably tested their patience to destruction. Companies such as Toyota, Unilever, Nokia and Skoda have also been successful at maintaining a strong culture whilst adapting their offer to meet new customer needs. Indeed, Skoda came ‘back in black’ by learning rapidly from the VW Group. So the smart money is on being a creature of habit whilst also remaining nimble and flexible to respond to your audience, customers or marketplace.

We exploring more parallel lessons in business and music in our book “Punk Rock People Management – A no-nonsense guide to Hiring, Inspiring and Firing staff”. Get your free copy of the book by writing to me here.

FINAL COVERWe will be exploring high voltage performance in the context of leadership at the 7th International HR summit event in Athens, Greece on October 20th following on from Dave Ulrich. For now, it’s back to the DC!!!


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