Harry Potter and the dark side of work

I was delighted to be invited by my good friend Professor Adrian Furnham to the launch party of  his new book  High Potential along with Kate Griffiths Lambeth.  High Potential is Adrian’s 78th book, co-written with rising star Ian Macrae.  The book is a superb compendium of practical ideas about psychology at work, written in an engaging style without all the usual jargon that the so-called professionals like to use to befuddle and ensnare us.

Highly Charged, High Voltage, High Potential - With Adrian, Ian and Kate at Bloomsbury - The Home of HP:  Harry Potter and High Potential

Highly Charged, High Voltage, High Potential – With Adrian, Ian and Kate at Bloomsbury – The Home of HP: Harry Potter and High Potential

The conversation and company were great and Kate and I shared some thoughts about the dark side of life afterwards over some warm beer.

On Twitter and Relationships

Twitter is a massive “Johari Window”, where people crash into each others lives, loves, hopes and fears in just 140 characters.  But, out of this chaotic and complex series of exchanges come a few genuine friendships and connections.  Amongst the people I am glad to know, like and trust that I would not know without Twitter are Trevor Lee, Kate GL, Mervyn Dinnen, David D’Souza, Andrew Sentance, Meg Peppin, Doug Shaw to name but a few, so Twitter works.   However, misunderstandings are the norm on Twitter and I always make a point of meeting people who interest me using more traditional means, such as a cup of tea and a proper dialogue. So 140 characters only take me to the point of “Knowing me, Knowing you, aha” and one needs more than this to create a proper relationship.  More a case of “Text and Drugs and Rock and Roll” … :-)

140 characters is insufficient to move us out of mutual oblivion on Twitter, but it can help us make a start ...

The Johari Window: 140 characters is insufficient to move us out of mutual oblivion on Twitter, but it can help us make a start …

On High Potential

One of the fascinating conversations we held with Adrian and Ian Macrae was on the impact of loss on high potential.  Adrian, Ian and myself share the loss of a parent at an early age and it certainly affected our drive and determination.  But the issue is complex and Ian gave personal witness to his own example, where he and his brother reacted quite differently to the loss.  This neatly explains why some people lose something precious early on in life and “stay in a ditch” whereas others decide to “get out of the ditch”.  Entrepreneurs such as Michelle Mone, inventor of the Ultimo Bra, points to early hardship as a spur to her success, but the relationship is complex and it does not necessarily work the other way, i.e. treat your kids badly to make them into leaders, as one of my MBA students once suggested !! :-)

michelle-mone-in-own-lingerie-77130890-874510

From the Gutter in Glasgow to the G Cup and G String – Michelle Mone’s entrepreneurial journey started with extreme hardship

On The X-Factor

Adrian eloquently explained the problem that can arise when confidence exceeds talent, using the X-Factor as a superb illustration.  High Potential explores the ‘dark side of personality’ and Adrian used Steve Jobs as an example of someone with a number of unappealing traits but who was saved by his unique vision and his ability to almost always make great decisions.  The substitution of confidence for talent is also a potentially dangerous cocktail …  Just witness this demonstration of mutually assisted narcissism on the X-Factor: Adrian ironically pointed out that Bloomsbury had made a great choice in commissioning the book, having also spotted the talent that is J.K. Rowling.  In this context, I was reminded of this simply great piece of popular psychology about the difference between talents and choices from Harry Potter:

Thanks for a superb evening of intelligent conversation, insight and inspiration.

High Potential - Click the picture to get your copy

High Potential – Click the picture to get your copy

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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.

Crowdfunding your business – Lessons from Rawk’n’Roll

Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 16.52.23

I was delighted to see this approach to Crowdfunding working for my friend Bernie Tormé last week.  In under one day, the project to commission a double album had exceeded it’s funding target and is now providing badly needed income for The Teenage Cancer Trust. The idea behind crowdfunding is simple:

  • Find enough people in the world who love something you want to do
  • Ask them to support you by pledging money up front via a web platform
  • Deliver on your promises

It’s another thing altogether to get people to do the pledging and this requires an enticing set of offers, which Bernie has put together.  I personally love the offer to sell his prized guitar given to him by Ozzy Osbourne, although I don’t think he really wants to part with it at £66 600!!

The number of the beast - £66 600

The number of the beast – £66 600

Crowdfunding is increasingly being used by entrepreneurs to overcome the initial funding hurdles to starting an enterprise.  It also allows independent music artists to cut out the middle man of the music industry, which many musicians detest.  This project will succeed and Bernie was kind enough to suggest that he’d used a little bit of my marketing advice in designing the project.  Now it is past the breakeven stage, the fundraising continues but with the greater goal of providing funding to support The Teenage Cancer Trust. It’s what leading author Daniel Pink discusses when he talks about combining Profit and Purpose in “A Whole New Mind”.

Bernie is simultaneously supporting a social goal as well as a business one

Bernie is simultaneously supporting a social goal as well as a business one

I have agreed a unique special offer with Bernie for executives wishing to put a bit of soul back into their lives.  We’re offering a trip to Bernie’s studio, some insights into the life of a working rock star, a live jam with the man himself and optional guitar lessons.  The offer is strictly limited to groups of a maximum of 8 people.  Contact me for full details via e-mail peter@humdyn.co.uk   Bernie also has a series of guitar masterclasses on offer either face to face or via Skype.

Check out the man to hear just what’s on offer and make a bid in this unique project.  We were lucky enough to do a couple of business events with him a while back.  You can’t beat Rawk’n’Roll ….

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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.

What kind of fool am I ?

On April 1st 1994, I started Human Dynamics, which eventually spawned The Academy of Rock a few years later, so today marks 20 years in business.  It’s quite rare to reach this length of time with many companies going out of business in the 1st 200 days, let alone 20 years.  It’s also been a bumpy ride through the recession and I’d like to take this moment to thank everyone that has supported me and my colleagues in all kinds of ways.

Twin Peaks - 20 years in business

Twin Peaks – 20 years in business

As it is April Fool’s day I thought I’d have a little fun with you.  There are five April Fool’s untruths amongst these 20 factoids about my business and personal life.  I will award a copy of my book “The Music of Business” to the 1st person that spots all five of the April Fool’s untruths:

  1. My mum claimed that I was a Virgin birth as my Dad was 67 and she 45 when I was born
  2. I once presented a copy of “Sex, Leadership and Rock’n’Roll” to Prince
  3. My first piece of work in the business was a strategic review for Amnesty International
  4. Professor Charles Handy sent me a postcard to congratulate me on my first book
  5. I brought the world’s first AIDS therapy to market by scaling the product up in record time
  6. I lost a small fortune sponsoring a round the world Rock’n’Roll Tour in 2006
  7. I was a member of The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s (CIPD’s) Council Board
  8. Professor John Kotter said he was too busy playing golf to read “The Music of Business”
  9. I nearly died when I was 25 whilst working in India through taking an aspirin
  10. I nearly collaborated on a book with Jim Collins
  11. I escorted Wilko Johnson through French Customs dressed as a nurse
  12. Mark E Smith of The Fall performed alongside me a gig at Kent University in 1978
  13. Richard Branson took a copy of one of my books from an inaugural Virgin flight
  14. Bob Geldof said I was f…cking mad when I met him at a CIPD conference
  15. I’ve been asked to do a PhD at Imperial College London
  16. George Clinton, The Godfather of Funk, bought me a kebab after a Prince concert
  17. I went to the same school as Sir David Frost
  18. We performed at Brands Hatch for the CIPD with John Otway
  19. The Rt Hon Peter Jay once offered me tea and a conversation at his private club in London
  20. I gave Evan Davis of Dragon’s Den a lift to an event he was speaking at
The prize

The prize

To finish, the Beatles also have a view on April fools:

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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.

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.

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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.

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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

Prince + 3rd Eye Girl – 1+1+1 = 7

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In 2007, I read somewhere that Prince said he would never return to UK after his 21 nights at the O2 Arena and Indigo2.  This converted me from a great admirer to an almost manic obsessive in my attempts to take in some last views of this amazing talent.  Needless to say this was a bit like the “last tour” by The Who and he has returned to the UK since.  It’s a well tried marketing trick and I fell for it, in the words of The Who’s song “Won’t get fooled again”, I did.  But I never thought I would get to see a Prince concert in such as small venue as the Shepherd’s Bush Empire, last Sunday 9th February, having met the amazing George Clinton the night before.  I’ve just returned from another 7 hour queuing marathon at Camden’s Koko, an amazing show, featuring Lianne De Havas and Prince continues to play into the night as I revise this post.

I should Koko ...

I should Koko …

For those who are not so aware of the continuous twists and turns of Prince’s career, he has stripped down his big funky band with horns and keyboards and now has a tight all female four-piece rock band called 3rdeyegirl.  Prince has always been unusual in the music business, in so far that he runs a meritocracy and truly values diversity within his band lineups.  You can read my previous posts on Prince on this blog.

Prince-3rdEyeGirl

I had some trepidation as I love Prince’s extended jazz funk jams but I need not have worried. This band is hot, hot, hot. Check this 3rdeyegirl version of “I like it there” from the actual night itself – Move over Jimi Hendrix, Prince is in town:

PR, Marketing and Social Media Lessons from Prince

The build up to the first few gigs has some important marketing and PR lessons for all.  Prince had gone on the record in saying that his shows would cost no more that $10 when he first arrived in the UK in February.  On the day of the Shepherd’s Bush gig an announcement was made that the price would be £70.  This produced an unusual social media phenomenon, as two guys from South East London made cardboard placards to remind Prince of his promise and wandered up and down the queue gathering interest. The #10PoundPrince hashtag quickly got picked up on Twitter and, four hours later, Prince had bowed to audience pressure to honour the £10 price.  Later on, a press release said that it had always been the intention to lower the price to £10, yet I have a ticket which boldly states £70.  Proof positive that people in the internet age will find ways to hold the mirror up to remind you of your promises – in this case a cardboard mirror, accelerated by Twitter ! :-)  Here’s the two social media revolutionaries in action:

Prince and The Revolutionaries

Prince and The Revolutionaries

That said, £10 is clearly unsustainable for the smaller to medium sized venues that Prince wants to play and the number of people required to staff such events.  Since Shepherd’s Bush, Prince has not played at all this week until Friday and now three shows tonight at Koko.  I suspect one of the problems behind the scenes has been either to find venues that would accept low ticket prices or to ‘manage the fans’ expectations’ of a realistic price for an evening of this scale. Prince’s manager Kiran Sharma carefully tested the mood of the fanbase on Thursday with this tweet and reset their expectation in a single move:

Online PR and customer expectation management in action

Online PR and customer expectation management in action

The Old Bull and Shepherd’s Bush

Anyway, what was it like?  Well, at Shepherd’s Bush, we started with some completely reworked, refried and refunked versions of some classics and a great selection of new material from the forthcoming album.  In particular I really enjoyed the slowed down R&B grooves of “Let’s go crazy”, “She’s Always in my hair” and “I could never take the place of ur man” alongside the new material. I’ve often said that Prince is “Jimi Hendrix with better lighting and tuning”, but of course, like Hendrix, he is also an absorber and synthesiser of genres, from James Brown and Little Richard to Wes Montgomery and Kate Bush.  He also shares a similar Myers Briggs type with Mr Hendrix, reckoned to be somewhere in the region INFP, although there are many arguments around this. His spiritual Godfather and almost polar MBTI opposite was  up the the balcony, Mr George Clinton, who I’d met at a private function the night before.  I think this must have given Prince an extra endorphin injection.  Check out “She’s always in my hair” slowed down and souled up:

We got a piano segue of a whole string of Prince hits (well, he has got too many of them really :-), from “Diamonds and Pearls”, “How come u don’t call me any more”, “Adore” etc. and “The Beautiful Ones“, which my wife and I chose as our first wedding dance, sending shivers down my spine.  We also got an electronica work out using some of Prince’s iconic samples from songs such as “Sign O’ The Times” and an extended jam with a Prince bass solo on “Forever in my life”. The whole set list from Shepherd’s Bush is below.

39 songs on a one nite stand

39 songs on a one nite stand

3 performances on a 1 nite stand – I should Koko!

We got a slightly reduced set tonight as Prince boldly decided to perform 3 shows at 7 pm, 10 pm and 1 am!!  It looked like there were some technical issues at the start of the first show as staff ran on and off stage meticulously checking things, with gaffa tape in sight.  This meant that the first show had to be reduced in length a little.  Prince handled this very well, when people refused to go, saying “Share and share alike” – This man has emotional intelligence oozing out of every pore of his body.

The set list at Koko in Camden - 1st performance

The set list at Koko in Camden – 1st performance

In terms of lessons for anyone else in professional life, what Prince does is to blend absolute control freakery with the ability to change direction at a moment’s notice.  The band rehearse a repertoire of 300 songs giving them the flexibility to adapt and jam.  I wrote about this in the books “Sex, Leadership and Rock’n’Roll” and “The Music of Business”.  I was delighted to be able to pass a copy of “The Music of Business” for Prince with his article in it – see this extract and e-mail me for a free copy of the full article at peter@humdyn.co.uk

The 3S model - Symbols, Signs and Sex

The 3S model – Symbols, Signs and Sex

Well, what more can one say?  I first wrote this blog, having missed the Prince event in Kings Cross , yet another completely different manifestation of this multi-talented, enigmatic and sometimes frustrating artist – an acoustic evening plus Q&A session and an all-eclectic aftershow. Today I went in search of Prince for further teachings in the art of improvisation and high performance and was rewarded with ticket No 331 and another great performance which makes you feel good to be alive.  Prince and I are both 55 and, as he said tonight:

Music is Medicine

I have certainly been healed and trained in a masterclass on flexibility, creativity, authenticity, an ecology of the mind and body and much more. Prince is rumoured to be playing Ronnie Scotts Monday 17 Feb and then Manchester at the end of the week.

This is how Prince sneaks into the venue - in a box - but the symbol is a dead giveaway ...

This is how Prince sneaks into the venue – in a box – but the symbol is a dead giveaway …

Can you imagine being this close to a performer who has been compared to Mozart?

Can you imagine being this close to a performer who has been compared to Mozart?

For now, let’s end with some more 3rdeyegirl – You must see this band while they are in UK.

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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. E-mail me for a free copy of the Prince chapter – Just send PRINCE to peter@humdyn.co.uk or contact direct via +44 (0) 7725 927585. Check out our online Leadership programme for FREE via The Music of Business Online.

Never mind the usual fare on business – This is the real deal

One Nite Alone … with George Clinton and Prince

I was privileged and astonished to be invited to a private event for 35 people with George Clinton, the inventor of P-Funk, Funkadelic, Parliament, whose influence has transcended generations, musical genres, class, creed and credentials.  With influences spreading from the Red Hot Chilli Peppers to Joss Stone.  Thank you so much to Lois Acton at Urban Unlimited for the invite.

I’d caught the train up to Shoreditch House in Bethnal Green on Saturday – the first time I’d ever been to Bethnal Green, although I quoted it in my spoof hard rock song on economics Fiscal Cliff, so there was a piece of serendipity!  I was expecting a huge venue with a massive audience.  Imagine my surprise when I was standing in the foyer with 4 others and Mr C comes in and casually remarks “Prince – what a great T Shirt” whilst shaking my hand.

George Clinton - Godfather of Funk, Soul, Psychedelia

George Clinton – Godfather of Funk, Soul, Psychedelia

At the start of the session, the interviewer asked if Mr Clinton was from another planet and he reassured us that he was certain that he was not sure …  as I have said on many occasions, truly creative people are better at ambiguity tolerance than most mortal souls!

Quite a few people wanted to know what the ‘recipe for fusion’ was and it became clear that George was simply an intuitive learner who ‘felt things and followed the direction’.  Perhaps that is the lesson from mastery of an art – being able to follow where the path leads.  He said on more than one occasion that he watched what Sly Stone was doing, where Jimi Hendrix and James Brown was going musically and so on and just felt that a fusion of these genres was possible, which became the P-Funk genre, a totally unique brand of music.  Coming ‘late to the party’ was clearly an advantage in terms of surveying emergent forms of music and being able to comprehend it all through being a songwriter for major labels.  Let’s hear Mr Clinton to get in the groove:

I asked George about the value of happy accidents in fusing musical genres and he replied with a detailed story about a day in the studio when he had laid down a drum pattern but somehow the studio engineer had reversed the loop on a tape machine in the same way as Prince subsequently used backward drum tracks.  George was trying to talk with the engineer but for some reason could not be heard, so he just started singing some ‘nonsense’ words about a ‘man and a dog’, expecting the engineer to eventually reverse the tape loop and for a key to come up to.  He did not do so and he kept on singing.  Eventually he realised that he had just created “Atomic Dog”.  We have discussed the value of serendipity on The Music of Business Linkedin group – please join to learn more.  Here’s the track:

Someone else asked him what album he wished he had recorded and he said “Sargent Pepper” – a real surprise, but perhaps not when you consider the production values that Mr Clinton has applied to his songs.  Asked about these he related a story about engineers being unwilling to say they had produced his records, due to George pushing recording levels way beyond the point at which normal recording conventions allowed, sometimes just using the repeat of a sample rather than the original recording as the main groove.  The only rule being to break rules and follow your intuition when you find something cool to jam on

I saw George again at a Prince gig tonight as I write this on the train.  Needless to say the concert was better than sex.  I will write more on this soon.  Suffice to say, I have not slept that much tonight after a two and a half hour set and 40 songs at Shepherd’s Bush Empire.  Let’s hear what Prince has to say about the teacher:

Mr Clinton with Lois

Mr Clinton with Lois

George Clinton… May the funk remain with u until the dawn …  He has a new album out soon at George Clinton.

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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.

Box Set 7