Innovation and Creativity

Last week Bloomsbury commissioned a groundbreaking book on innovation and creativity from me. Bloomsbury are the home of Harry Potter and have a major cadre of thought leaders and business authors alongside their popular offerings. I’m wondering if you would like to be part of this great adventure?

Bloomsbury's HQ in London

Bloomsbury’s HQ in London

I’m looking for stories and mini case studies to be included in the book with full credits to you and your company. There are two themes – one personal and the other more business focused:

1. Personal Creativity Stories

Have you got a story which illustrates how your own creativity works? Can you articulate the circumstances under which you are at your most creative? Do you work best alone or in groups. Does the environment, your mood, stimulation level or time of day matter? Typical strategies for personal creativity include running, showering, being engaged in some non-work related activity e.g. ironing, gardening etc. I’ve attached an example below to give you an idea of the sort of thing I’m looking for. Your story could be anything from 50 to 300 words long. It would be good if you can tie your story to an underlying principle from psychology or neuroscience.

2. Innovation Mini Cases

For Innovation Leaders

  • How do you structure for innovation in your enterprise?
  • How do you create a culture and climate for intrapreneuship?
  • How do you deal with failure?
  • How is your approach to innovation informed (or not) by what academics and thought leaders say about the process of bringing new things into being?

For Innovators

  • Have you taken an idea and converted it to a profitable / sustainable innovation?
  • How did you set about that?
  • What barriers did you have to overcome?
  • How was your approach informed (or not) by what academics and thought leaders say about the process of bringing new things into being?
  • What has been the impact? – on you, on others, on society?

We currently have case studies from Virgin, Pfizer, Fuji Film, Widget, Dyson etc. so I’m looking for examples from different walks of business life. Your case could be anything from 300 to 1200 words long – it does not have to include all the aspects I’ve mentioned above and could focus on other aspects of innovation.

Please send your contributions via e-mail to peter@humdyn.co.uk. The deadline for book submission is tight and I really need your contributions within one month (19 April) to have a realistic chance to integrate your piece into the final manuscript.

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Peter Cook leads Human Dynamics and The Academy of Rock. Author of eight books on leadership and creativity as it applies to business. His latest offerings “Punk Rock People Management” – 2nd Edition and a NEW edition of “The Music of Business” may be pre-ordered now by clicking on the image.

Click to order

Click to order

 

Enigmatic Leadership

Does your enigma as a leader increase if a sense of mystery surrounds your life?  I was thinking about this whilst listening to the BBC broadcast on Prince’s ‘Vault’ of unreleased material today, estimated to be more than 70% of his recorded output.

In case you are not familiar, Prince is thought to write a song every day and is already considered to be capable of releasing albums for many years after his death, achieving some kind of mythical ‘life after death’ status for some of his fans.  It’s a quite different approach to that of Michael Jackson, Jimi Hendrix and The Beatles, where people have struggled to find anything like a catalogue of quality unreleased material.

Undoubtedly, his enigma is a great allure for his fanbase, some of whom would probably do anything to see him. This level of adulation has its downside. My own frustration with the purple genius’ enigma reached its peak when I bought a ticket to one of his aftershows in London some years back, only to find the he had gone directly to Dubrovnik after the main show and had no intention of performing, leaving me cold and tired, walking around London till the early hours.  Yes, the billing for these shows did say “Expect the unexpected”, but at that point I felt he had stretched the deal way beyond the promise!  I recall he did something similar in Ireland some years back as well and at numerous other locations.  Yet, he also occasionally gives ‘random acts of kindness’, such as when I queued for 7 hours to see him in London last year, expecting to pay £70 for the pleasure and then being asked for £10 when I reached the door.

Do the concepts of being mysterious and precocious stretch to modern day leadership in business? I’m sure many of you would expect me to say yes, given my ‘minor obsession’ with music and business parallels, but this is one area where I have to say no.  Here’s three things you should not ‘copy and paste’ from Prince’s example as a leader and two that you might:

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Finally, here’s the song from my ‘vault’ that I wrote for Prince, in support of the charity Autism Rocks. Download your copy now via Bandcamp and tell your friends.  Also a picture of Prince’s spiritual Godfather Mr George Clinton of Parliament after his tour of The Houses of Parliament last week when I caught up with him. I’m off to see George if anyone wants to join me in London on April 15th at Kokos with Dr Andrew Sentance and a special guest.

Prince

What U C Is What U Get – a tribute to Prince, in support of Autism research – artwork by Mary Frances Geiser

First you gotta shake the gate ... of Parliament - with George Clinton at The Houses of Parliament

First you gotta shake the gates … of Parliament – with George Clinton at The Houses of Parliament               Photo by Clive Allen

Prince - I would fry for you

                                        Prince – I would fry 4 U – Breakfast can wait!

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Peter Cook leads Human Dynamics – better Business and Organisation Development, Training and Coaching. He offers keynotes that blend World Class Leadership Thinking with parallel lessons from the world of music via The Academy of Rock.

Author of eight books on Business Leadership – Check his latest one:

Punk Rock People Management

Click on the picture to find out more

   Click on the picture to find out more

The High Priest of Fusion

I interviewed Maxi Priest recently about his life and music. He is credited as having fused Soul, R&B and Reggae in his music and is one of the most successful reggae fusion acts of all-time.  Check the interview with ME1TV out:

Max’s fusion of different styles came from being exposed to an enormous variety of music as a child. Starting by singing Gospel music in Church for his mother and being asked to sing Country songs by his father, he absorbed Motown, Reggae, Pop and a wide range of other musical genres, fusing it into his own unique style.

The parallel lesson for me is that it is wise to sample from a diverse range of sources to create something new.  A unique proposition can arises from fusing things together into a product or service that is hard to copy or beat.  That also means sampling from a wide palette of knowledge, skills and experiences.

Fuse, don’t Confuse!!

Sample from a diverse palette 

Check Max’s new album out “Easy to Love“.  Here’s a sample:

Maxi Priest Camden

It’s easy to love Maxi Priest – a lovely guy

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Peter Cook leads Human Dynamics, offering better Organisation Development, Training and Coaching. He offers keynotes that blend World Class Leadership Thinking with the wisdom of the street via The Academy of Rock – where Business Meets Music. Author of seven books on Business Leadership, acclaimed by Tom Peters, Professors Charles Handy, Adrian Furnham and Harvey Goldsmith CBE. Connect with us on our Linkedin Company Page and join our group The Music of Business where we discuss parallel lessons from Business and Music.

 

 

 

Live Long and Prosper

Live Long and Prosper

Live Long and Prosper

Leonard Nimoy’s sad passing reminded me that I’d written about “The Star Trek approach to decision making” some 15 years ago, when I first wrote a book called “Rockin’ The Corporation”, which eventually became “Sex, Leadership and Rock’n’Roll” five years later. In the book I rejected Belbin, Myers Briggs and other fancy approaches to understanding the human condition, in favour of the simpler, perhaps unvalidated but far more pragmatic “Star Trek Model”. Although Roger Sperry’s notion of the “Left and Right brain” is largely discredited by academics, I’d dare to suggest that good decisions are none the less composed of creative and analytical inputs, which approximate to the common notion of Left and Right Brain thinking. So, there’s nothing therefore wrong with the term as a practical shorthand for getting from one decision making galaxy to another …

When important decisions are taken in Star Trek, Spock provides the much needed analytical, logical, ordered and structured “left brain” input, whereas Kirk provides the emotionally intelligent, intuitive, creative and improvised “right brain” input. Sometimes Dr Mc Coy arbitrates or facilitates a synthesis between these poles in search of a better synthesis of the analytical and creative positions. Take a glance at the opening sequence of “Space Seed” from 2’53’ – 4’30”, where Kirk has to make a decision about an enemy craft and you will see an archetypal example what I mean:

Instinct is necessary but often insufficient to make good decisions. Just think about some typical business and life decisions:

  • Buying a house, a luxury car or a holiday
  • Making strategic business decisions
  • Falling in love
  • Hiring a key member of staff
  • Selecting a pension plan
  • Planning your career

… or any perverse combination of these things … for example, falling in love with a member of staff, buying a luxury car instead of making sound business decisions or buying a pension plan … many of which I have observed people doing over the years !!

It can be a disastrous idea to buy a house based on the smell of coffee, freshly baked bread, how attractive the owner is, but later discovering that you did not check whether the property had enough bedrooms, that the buyer no longer lives there because they were selling you the property and not asking you to live with them and so on!

Nor would life be tolerable if we attempted to fall in love using Excel spreadsheets or a Gantt chart, checking the “dimensions” of everything, but failing to take into account whether we liked the person or not, as this ludicrous example demonstrates below:

Falling in love (with Excel) again … never wanted to … :-)

We can see just how badly the impulsive Kirk needs Spock’s cool analysis in the episode featuring Joan Collins “The City On The Edge Of Forever”, where Kirk’s decision making abilities are taken completely off course by a kiss – from 1’15” onwards in this sequence.

You could spend a lifetime doing DISC profiles etc. to help you understand your fellow decision makers, or just follow a robust process such as “The Star Trek Method”. There is of course no need to wear the ears of Spock in the Boardroom, although I have supplied these at certain times for very tough decisions and wicked problems … Big decisions are too important to rely on only half of your brain and you sometimes need very big ears to hear new ideas …

To lead, get bigger ears

To lead, get bigger ears

Where’s Captain Kirk?

Long Live and Prosper!

Leonard Nimoy R.I.P.

Postcript : in a piece of synchronicity, Steve Browne wrote a piece called #LLAP in celebration of Leonard Nimoy’s life – read it at Everyday People.

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Peter Cook leads Human Dynamics, offering better Organisation Development, Training and Coaching. He offers keynotes that blend World Class Leadership Thinking with the wisdom of the street via The Academy of Rock – where Business Meets Music. Author of seven books on Business Leadership, acclaimed by Tom Peters, Professors Charles Handy, Adrian Furnham and Harvey Goldsmith CBE.

Welcome Constraints

jack-white-5

In the film It Might Get Loud, guitarist Jack White says that technology makes us lazy and laziness is bad for creativity. He is right. My first guitar cost £10, the strings stood about an inch (slight exaggeration but not much) from the neck which made my fingers work much harder to play the instrument than normal. As a result, people tell me that I can bend strings an incredible amount akin to Dave Gilmour of Pink Floyd, even though I don’t use particularly a light gauge of strings.

White often uses low-quality instruments to force him to play differently, although the Gretsch he is pictured with above is not one of them!  He says:

“If it takes me three steps to get to the organ, then I’ll put it four steps away. I’ll have to run faster, I’ll have to push myself harder to get to it.”

This is something I completely understand as a musician and a scientist.  Some of the best music I made was written using poor equipment where there had to be some kind of struggle to extract something from it.  I spent a lot of time in the 1980’s and 1990’s chaining reel to reel tape recorders together, reversing and splicing tape to create sounds that had never been heard before.  Admittedly a few of these nobody ever wanted to hear again either!

Contrary to popular opinion, constraints are useful for creativity in all walks of life.  James Dyson would not have invented the Dyson vacuum cleaner if he had not become frustrated at his vacuum cleaner which “did not suck”. Isambard Kingdom Brunel would have not built the Great Western Railway without feeling frustrated that he could not get to Cornwall quickly, and so on.

The Clifton Suspension Bridge - one of the many of IK Brunel's achievements

The Clifton Suspension Bridge – one of the many of IK Brunel’s achievements

It’s important to separate what I call “real constraints” from “imaginary ones”.  A real constraint might be a law of physics, an imaginary one simply an assumption such as a way of doing things that has become a habit or paradigm within an industry. In my own experience, I was partly responsible for developing the world’s first AIDS treatment.  A real constraint was that of time.  We needed to collapse the traditional drug development process time to bring the drug to market as quickly and safely as possible.  At that time Wellcome was renowned for making tablet formulations and this would have been our “paradigm response” to the situation.  In the event, we elected to formulate the product as a capsule, something we were very inexperienced with but which would deliver the quickest route to market. This committed us to a rapid learning programme of work to develop the product. In doing so we eliminated the artificial constraint of “we always do it that way”.

Screen Shot 2015-02-14 at 12.58.02

When we design creative thinking sessions for companies seeking to rethink their strategy, products, services and internal processes, I like to boundary the topic under study with the real constraints that surround it.  These should not be too many – too many constraints tend to stifle ingenious thinking and no constraints tend to produce unfocused creativity.  Some disagree with me on this, saying that creative thinking should be a no holds barred affair.  Long experience in working with people and companies that look for commercial creativity i.e. ideas that have utility suggests that this is wasteful and often does not lead to execution as the ideas developed do not pass the obstacles that are in the way of execution. The theory of constraints is well documented and mostly forgotten by people who think only about the positive side of business improvement.  I wrote recently for Sir Richard Branson on this topic in terms of the internal barriers to innovation and you can read the post at Virgin.

For many years, I’ve used my “fried egg model” to describe the essentials needed to specify a problem or opportunity that is amenable to ingenious thinking.  I was delighted when Charles Handy told me he had thought of something similar for his book “The Empty Raincoat” but later decided it was too fanciful.  The fried egg model requires there to be enough “thinking space” between “the demands or goal” and “the constraints” to provide an arena for productive creativity – “the choices”.  This is why it’s a fried egg and not a boiled one sliced through the middle!  Here is the fried egg I always carry in my bag alongside my computer as I’m sure we all do …

The Fried Egg Model - Demands, Constraints, Choices

The Fried Egg Model – Demands, Constraints, Choices

Andy Wooler offered me this excellent additional example of the use of constraints from the world of music via Arnold Schoenberg’s use of “Serialism”, of which one expression is the twelve-tone technique. We wouldn’t have the magnificent “Rite of Spring” without it. The technique requires that all 12 notes of the chromatic scale are sounded as often as one another whilst preventing the emphasis of any one note. This constraint did not get in the way of exciting music and some thought it was a breath of fresh air. Of course, as it is music, not everyone agrees!

To finish, here’s that first guitar that taught me the value of constraints – I was hold it was a Hofner Futurama by the insurance salesman that sold it to me for £10.  It was heavily modified with “Brian May” Burns Trisonic pickups which were its crowning glory.  It taught me to be strong!  I eventually managed to buy another one for a similar price although his one was so bad in construction and playing that I had to take a saw to it.  It was 1977 after all – the year of punk!

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Guitar Book Collage

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Peter Cook leads Human Dynamics, offering better Organisation Development, Training and Coaching. He offers keynotes that blend World Class Leadership Thinking with the wisdom of the street via The Academy of Rock – where Business Meets Music. Author of seven books on Business Leadership, acclaimed by Tom Peters, Professors Charles Handy, Adrian Furnham and Harvey Goldsmith CBE. Connect with us on our Linkedin Company Page and join our group The Music of Business where we discuss parallel lessons from Business and Music.

Bemoaning the blues

Peter Cook - Speaker and Writer on Business and Music:

Inspired by David D’Souza’s latest post on the HR Tribunal hearing for Bruno Mars, here is another blues inspired piece of satire …

Originally posted on Peter Cook's Musings - The Music of Business:

Following on from my piece on the business blues I just had to post this fantastic piece of blues satire that was sent to me from Clarksdale MA

Blues Singer’s Woman Permitted To Tell Her Side

MS–Ida Mae Dobbs, longtime woman of Willie “Skipbone” Jackson, called a press conference Tuesday to respond to charges levied against her by the legendary Delta blues singer. Ida Mae Dobbs, woman of blues singer Willie “Skipbone” Jackson

“Despite what Mr. Jackson would have you believe, I am not an evil-hearted woman who will not let him be,” Dobbs told reporters. “I repeat: I am not an evil-hearted woman who will not let him be. To the contrary, my lovin’ is so sweet, it tastes just like the apple off the tree.”

Dobbs, accused of causing Jackson pain and breaking his heart by calling out another man’s name, categorically denied treating him in a low-down manner.

“He says he sends for his baby…

View original 601 more words

Reasons to be cheerful … about entrepreneurship

2015 looks like it may well be the year where the “two E’s” collide in a positive manner – where Entrepreneurship meets Economics, so that novel ideas and their owners meet with the capital and other resources to ensure that their enterprise becomes more than a “one hit wonder”. Whilst entrepreneurs are compelled to bring new ideas into existence regardless of the economy, it obviously helps if ideas are launched at a time when people and businesses are in the mood and with the means to buy them.such as Anita Roddick, who started The Body Shop next to a funeral parlour in Brighton in 1976, estimated to be one of the best years in the UK in terms of well being.

Anita Roddick planted her seeds for The Body Shop on fertile ground in 1976

Anita Roddick planted her seeds for The Body Shop on fertile ground in 1976

What then makes me suggest that 2015 is going to be a good year for entrepreneurs?

Economics, Economics, Economics

I was speaking with my friend Dr Andrew Sentance on his economic forecast for 2015 recently. A former member of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee Andrew is currently Senior Economic Adviser for PwC and a member of my band Rock In The City, dedicated to humanising the square mile through rock music. He outlined several reasons to be cheerful:

  1. Economic growth is forecast to be 2.5% in 2015. Andrew suggests that only the US will do better among the G7 economies in the coming year.
  2. Investment is forecast to grow by over 6% in 2015.
  3. Inflation is low and set to fall further. Consumers may gain some much-needed economic relief in terms of prices.
  4. Unemployment is expected to fall to 5.5% by the end of 2015.
  5. Wages growth is picking up – expected to be 2.4% next year. When combined with low inflation, people can expect the first improvements in living standards since the financial crash.
  6. Real household disposable income is forecast to rise by 2.3% in 2015, providing the consumer with some purchasing power for the first time in several years.
The wonderful Stiff Records - an entrepreneurial startup that started in 1976 but ran out of cash eventually ...

The wonderful Stiff Records – an entrepreneurial startup that started in 1976 but ran out of cash eventually …

The one thing we can be sure of is that the future is that it is subject to change. Nonetheless, these predictions do line up to offer hope that we will be gently lifted out of recession for the first time in around 7 years. What then does the improved economic climate offer for the entrepreneur?

Reasons to be cheerful … for Entrepreneurs … 1, 2, 3

  1. If your enterprise is operating in what I call one of the “Brain Based Industries” you are likely to find a fertile climate for growth in 2015. These include biotechnology, nanotechnology, 3D printing and computing development, which shows no sign of having reached a plateau in our imagination of what’s possible.
  2. The service sector and creative industries are also predicted to show significant growth. If you are an entrepreneur with a creative idea or service, which makes people’s lives better in some way, now is a good time to be thinking of starting your business. My long experience of working with creative people reminds me to also say that you must couch your service in terms of simple to understand consumer focused benefits and not. Some creative minds are prone to think that people will beat a path to your door to seek out what you offer, however difficult you make it for them. That is the exception and not the rule.
  3. Finally some traditional industries are also set for growth with good forecasts for the construction industry and consumer goods. We need also to look at ways to innovate in these industries to make sure that our contributions in this area employ sustainable technologies and materials. This is an area where entrepreneurs can play their part.

We must learn to unlearn

It’s been a long haul through the deepest recession for many years and I’m personally hopeful that we will learn from the lessons of economics to create a more sustainable world economy. That’s not simply learning new things, but also unlearning out-dated habits that create boom and bust economies in favour of a more sustainable world. In this context, we finish with a song that Andrew Sentance loves for it’s rather cheeky Ian Dury inspired lyrics about economics and entrepreneurship. I wrote the song as a call to action for a more sustainable world, plus it was a lot of fun to do …

and, of course, one of the inspirations for Andrew’s predictions: