New Year Revolutions

During 2015 I was very lucky to sample some glimpses of what the future holds in healthcare, the environment and music. In this article I’m looking at some snapshots of ingenious innovations in these areas to encourage other entrepreneurs to get busy on their own new year revolutions.

Digital Health

Up till recently technology was not reliable and therefore difficult to use in situations where reliability is key such as healthcare. This has now changed and technology is on the cusp of being a health game changer. I witnessed some of the amazing innovations in healthcare, when I was invited to attend and present by Roberto Ascione, CEO of Healthware International at the Frontiers of Interaction conference in Milan just recently. Here’s three:

Tinnitracks helps manage tinnitus without the use of a pill but rather your music library, cancelling the frequencies responsible for the symptom. This enables us to use our smartphones as a therapeutic device, using our own preferred music to help reduce the hyperactivity of affected nerve cells and this ease the effects of tinnitus.

If a picture is worth a thousand words how is a video worth? Starting from this and from the knowledge that health videos are by far the most desired and effective way we learn about our own health Videum pioneers the potential of making validated health videos available to all in any language. For the first time, people can learn easily about health from high quality video enriched with additional content.

The diabetes management app OneDrop uses timelines, geolocalization, badges and social media to help people to stay within their target glucose level range. OneDrop was devised by a diabetes sufferer who felt things could be a lot better. The free app looks like a visual diary and allows people to simply record their glucose levels by saving them where and when they took the measure and maybe even link them to the photo of their meal. This helps people manage their diabetes better.

Recycling London

Imagine being able to cycle from South East London to West London on your bicycle without fear of being run over? Imagine being able to do that on the River Thames? This is the concept being pioneered by the Thames Deckway project, which aims to construct a dedicated cycle path along the Thames. I was privileged to attend a briefing on the project from a young entrepreneur who has arranged a crowdfunding project to gain momentum to advance the idea. In my opinion the project is viable, novel and would contribute massively to make London a greener, safer city for cyclists, motorists and the general public. If we are serious about the environment we must get busy on pedal power.

Networking and horizontal collaboration

Enterprises are increasingly finding that innovation springs from collaboration, often from networks that they don’t “own”, i.e. through partnership with external agents, customers, even competitors in some circumstances. In this context I am delighted to have been personally invited to the Open For Business global network, the brainchild of Ted Coiné. This global network of speakers, writers and influencers are very much open for business in 2016. Ted explains the concept:

Open For Business in 2016

Open For Business in 2016

I am very lucky to have a place in this network at Keynotes, adding to the global networks I share with Nadine Hack and Virgin.com. At last, the world is your oyster …

New Year Revolutions

  • In common with Professor Charles Handy, I predict that we are about to realise the power of networks, where small networks can join together to create massive changes in the world for good.
  • We are already seeing how small networks can exert big influence in healthcare and the environment. Entrepreneurs can, for the first time, exert major influence with good products and the ability to network them effectively.
  • Consequently we will have to embrace all the diversity that this opportunity presents, beginning to understand our relative unimportance in a complex and wired world.

Improvising into 2016

Improvisation and adaptiveness

My background as a scientist instilled curiosity and the understanding that most of life is a series of experiments. It has been very good for my life as a musician and even better now as a business owner in an age of disruptive change. In a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) business environment, life in a business requires perpetual change and experimentation to find new focal points. This is a subtle but important difference than a “random walk” which can leads to fad surfing and a lack of consolidation of your value. Improvisation and adaptation have been invaluable skillsets, through one of the deepest recessions for many decades. In the last year or so, some of the results are beginning to show from what I did when there was not much to do in terms of paid activity during those times.

Joining Dots

People tell me that much of my longevity as a business comes down to joining the dots between people, passions and purposes. After winning a prize from Sir Richard Branson for my work on leadership last year, this has flourished, through some deliberation and a bit of luck, into writing for Virgin, gaining an interview with Richard for my new book with Bloomsbury and, more recently running events, which blend business excellence with music in Branson’s Virgin Money Lounges, giving me the good fortune to work alongside Class A rock stars and discover their insights into business, life and the universe. I have also forged a partnership with the awesome Ted Coiné (awesome is not a word that I am drawn to as a sober Brit), but Ted does deserve this tag with his exclusive network Open for Business, which brings together 50 thought leaders around the globe as co-collaborators.

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Restarting the engines

This year has finally been one when a number of businesses have started again to use the services of external people after many years of simply treading water whilst people halted projects or suspended the use of outside people to contain costs. We’ve been fortunate to deliver a range of projects from business reviews, facilitated strategy summits to leadership and innovation conferences for companies as diverse as FujiFilm, MSD, University College London, Bentley and Roche in the UK, Ireland, Italy, Greece, Denmark, Germany and Poland. I was also surprised to receive requests for consultancy projects from The Welsh Assembly, Renault-Nissan and Alstom Transport during the year.

Private joys

I believe that we work best when we do what we love. In my case that means occasionally doing things that my colleagues tell me are dream jobs. Amongst the private joys I’ve had in 2015, I’d mention these:

1. Taking BBC Business correspondent Robert Peston to a P-Funk concert with George Clinton and subsequently writing him a song for his departure from the BBC in support of Cancer Research UK. Check “Pestonomics” out here:

2. Interviewing John Mayall, the Godfather of the Blues, Prince’s sax player, Marcus Anderson and Prince’s first lady, Sheila E, about flow, improvisation, music and a range of other topics. I was delighted to find that Sheila had previously seen my book “Sex, Leadership and Rock’n’Roll” – just an incredible result from delivering a copy of the book to Prince some 8 years ago and proof positive of the value of networking. Check Sheila’s interview out here:

3. Performing on stage at London’s Borderline with Bernie Tormé, Ozzy Osbourne and Ian Gillan’s guitarist. Bernie was extremely kind in crediting me for having contributed to the reinvention of his career alongside Arthur Brown and Ginger Wildheart, a great honour and a privilege for someone who takes no prisoners. Here’s the 3 minute rehearsal of his song “Party’s Over”:

4. A great joy was recording four songs as a tribute to my good friend Bill Nelson, who has inspired the likes of Kate Bush, David Bowie, Brian Eno, Brian May at al. Bill has been a constant source of inspiration and wisdom for over 40 years of my life and remains to this day a permanent flame when the lights go out from time to time. Check out the Be-Bop Deluxe song “Crying to the Sky”, which was itself an homage to Jimi Hendrix. Also one of my earliest musical influences from Bill’s band Be-Bop Deluxe “Adventures in a Yorkshire Landscape”, written about Bill’s home area. Recording these songs was not an idle musical adventure. Through my advert for musicians, the project introduced me to Robert Craven, Virgin author and business speaker, also a Bill Nelson nut. I had already known of Robert through his work at The Director’s Centre but we had not met. To misquote Be-Bop Deluxe, the meeting was “Made In Heaven” and Robert and I are planning some collaborations for 2016.

5. I was fortunate to have played a small part in helping Patti Russo reinvent her career in the PME (Post Meatloaf Era). I enjoyed her performances with Spike Edney and the SAS band immensely but the high point was seeing her perform solo at The Opera House at Buxton where she gave a spine tingling performance of her song “One Door Opens”.

Public disappointments

The VUCA environment of the last few years have seen more window shoppers than usual and turbulence has just more or less cancelled much of my work for 2016, due to a merger at Pfizer-Allergan, an internal reorganisation and a persistent timewaster, who shall go un-named at the moment, since I am presently trying to mediate over the matter. No matter how old I get, I have not yet invented a foolproof way to spot fools in advance of them fooling me into giving my time for free. Hey ho, I guess that the alternative is to develop greater resilience!

My biggest mistake in 2015 was when I was approached by a chap called Mike Waterton, who rolled up in a Bentley seeking advice on how to transform his career from the boss of a recruitment agency into a noted author and speaker. I saw no reason to doubt his credentials (My wife tells me I trust everyone!) A while later, he told me he was unable to pay for the services I had provided as his business had gone into liquidation. Later on, he was accused in a local newspaper of pimping out his 25 year old girlfriend at a hotel in Kent! I generally consider myself to be a good judge of character, but I guess you never can tell … ! The FBI (Foolish Businessman Indicator) would have come in handy! It’s the first bad debt I have had in 21 years of business and I cannot understand how I did not spot the alarm bells earlier. It turns out that Mike is the victim of the seductive argument that you can have everything you want in life, as suggested in the book “The Secret” and beautifully parodied in “Family Guy” when Brian the dog decides to turn himself into a personal development guru and writes a book called “Wish It, Want It, Do It“:

FG

Click on the picture to see an excerpt of this brilliant piece of satire on The Law of Attraction

As a result of becoming indoctrinated by “The Secret” Mike bought the Bentley without realising that he would bankrupt his business in the process. His wife then left him after he acquired a young girl that appeared to come with the car. Lots of other people lost their jobs and earnings as a result of his self-obsessed strategy, informed by one of his mantras – “Think only of Yourself”, which is morally bankrupt and which bankrupted him and others who his life connected with. It’s not what I advised him to do and I’m disappointed that (a) he was economical with the truth about his situation and (b) that I was not able to persuade him to take a different course of action. I’d cautioned him about his strategy, suggesting that he built on his strengths rather than attempting to build a business on someone else’s brand, where he had no authority platform to operate from. Unfortunately, my advice turned out to be correct, but he also took advice from his girlfriend, who encouraged him to reach for the stars. A clear case of what my Mancunian wife calls “Fur Coat, No Knickers”.

Clearly I had little to offer in terms of professional coaching when matched against sex ... one of life's professional disappointments

Clearly I had little to offer in terms of professional coaching when matched against sex … one of life’s professional disappointments

Hopes and fears

“I made it through the wilderness, yeah I made it through” – Madonna

Having come through the recession over 8 years, I come out of it having refined what I do, branded it, become much better networked and with a range of artefacts to show for my efforts, the most precious one of which is a major new book called “Leading Innovation, Creativity and Enterprise” for Bloomsbury which I’m very excited about.

Of course, I am 8 years older into the bargain and this occasionally worries me as young things can see such people as irrelevant in a workplace that values apps over application and wisdom. To survive in business in an adaptive environment requires improvisation, curiosity and the willingness to learn new skills without becoming distracted by every shiny new thing that passes you by. As an improvising musician scientist and business owner I feel up for the challenge …

Wishing you a happy and prosperous 2016.

Peter

 

Making better decisions that stick

Introducing the wonderful Dawna Jones from Vancouver.  Dawna is CEO of From Insight to Action, a change management consultancy which helps individuals, teams and organisations escape from tramline thinking that can become embedded into business cultures. She is author of Decision Making for Dummies and writes for The Huffington Post.

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Click on the picture to view the book on Amazon

Dawna kindly interviewed me for as part of her online interview series “The Evolutionary Provocateur podcast”, hosted by Management Issues. Take a listen.

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Click the image to listen to the interview

She says of change management:

“Over a decade ago, I was facilitating an organizational change initiative which made a lurch forward only to settle back as incremental change. Instantly, I realized that business decision makers and underlying beliefs in the culture weren’t adapting fast enough to match the accelerating ecological, climate and social change. Ten years of research into the science and spirit of human performance (and complex systems) gave me greater insight into how to work with the unknown to create greater creativity and resilience in companies and leaders at every level. Brain science tells us that decisions fall into repetitive ruts unless you actively introduce diverse opinions, reflect to learn from assumptions or take other steps to see from many levels and broaden perspective.  Advanced skills to deepen personal and organizational awareness along with simple principles allow greater functionality in complexity. Providing the learning environment to deepen skills personally and collectively is a personal passion of mine.

Dawna

Click on the image to move from Insight to Action

I asked Dawna for some insights into her work:

Making Better Decisions

Peter : What are the hallmarks of companies that make great decisions?

Dawna : They tap into both their intuitive intelligence and their collective intelligence. Transparency and trust are central to providing a growth oriented decision making environment where customers and employees contribute to providing the multiple feedback input required to stay alert to changing developments.

They take time out from being busy to reflect and gain perspective. Without that there is limited to no capacity for foresight – to see what’s coming ahead.

They flex their thinking to fit the situation rather than applying analytical thinking for every situation.

They are highly networked, consequently can keep pace with emerging change.

Peter : I love the idea of using their own intelligence and that of others. This triangulates a complex decision, leading to the best possible outcome rather than the lowest common denominator if done with skill. In a busy world, reflection becomes even more important if there is to be foresight.

Making decisions stick

Peter : As we know, it’s one thing making good decisions, quite another to take other people with you. How do you ensure that people follow their decisions? Why is an outsider essential?

Dawna : A decision not followed is a decision not inspired by a shared common goal. When a decision is forced from the top down, and it has a negative impact on those implementing it, it stands to reason that it won’t inspire the energy required for action. An outsider brings in an objective take on the underlying dynamics so the invisible factors, like cultural beliefs in conflict with the direction, can be identified and reviewed rather than dealing with the undertow created when you’re trying to do something different and it conflicts with what’s always been done before. Most often, this kind of conflict surfaces in behaviour and the temptation is to fix the behaviour. It’s a much deeper dynamic going on that someone not immersed in the environment can detect quickly using intuitive insight.

The importance of reflection and incubation

The importance of reflection and incubation – extract from Decision Making for Dummies – click on the picture to find the book on Amazon

Peter : The concept of undertow resonates strongly with me, reminding me of the lyrics to the song by Suzanne Vega, although clearly the song places a different meaning on the word undertow …. but do we really need an excuse to play a Suzanne Vega song!? :-) However, it made me think that the more leaders push, sometimes this produces an equal and opposite reaction from those being ‘pushed’. Leaders must learn to engage and develop collaboration if they want to ‘pull’ instead of ‘push’. There are only a few circumstances when push is of value such as turnarounds and crises. Even then, smart leaders understand that great decisions may come from those closest to the action. You remind me that the outsider sees things that others don’t see and much earlier, allowing an enterprise to correct its decision before it has happened.

Music and the mind

Peter : We talked a lot in the interview you kindly did about music and the mind. Share some of your thinking on the role which music can play in shaping our lives.

Dawna : To me, music is the song of the soul celebrating life in its many emotions. With respect to business, it can serve as a metaphor as you do so well in your work and it can also serve to bring calm to a stressed high pressure environment. Mark Romero’s music, for instance, has the effect of calming and bringing your body into physical coherence meaning you’re able to access your alpha (creativity) state and also gain harmony between the mind and the heart. Certain classical music is used by more enlightened education systems to help students remember their work without needing to exercise recall – That helps those of us have the ability to recall or memorise. None of this has to be set at high volume to work. Low volume works just fine. Music gives us the chance to enrich our creativity (same part of the brain) and stimulate expression.

Work with Dawna and myself on learning at the speed of sound

Work with Dawna and myself on learning at the speed of sound

Peter : I can certainly attest to the memory value of music, having used it over many years to help people excel across a range of circumstances from passing exams to locking in important thoughts into long term memory. I have never visited a country yet where people cannot more or less recite the words to Bohemian Rhapsody, now 40 years old. A pity they don’t always know so much about their company’s mission statements!! :-) Having just watched a Queen documentary on television last night it reminded me of attending Hyde Park to see them in 1976 – one truly amazing concert.

Contact Dawna via From Insight to Action if you are interested in making better business decisions. Dawna and I are available for joint projects into 2016 around the world, combining thoughtful Organisation Development with masterclass inputs that blend business ideas with music for maximum engagement and application.

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About the Blogger

Peter Cook leads Human Dynamics and The Academy of Rock. Check out our books on Amazon which make excellent seasonal gifts. We are currently booking launch events for Leading Innovation, Creativity and Enterprise, a major new book for 2016 with Bloomsbury, featuring exclusive interviews with Sir Richard Branson and Sir James Dyson.

Books x 4

Agilty and Perception

In our occasional series of posts on the practical aspects of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), here’s a short post on one of NLP’s values, summed up by the phrase:

The meaning of communication is the response you get

This simple phrase is one of the hardest but most useful principles to get on board. Instead of thinking it’s someone else’s fault if they don’t ‘get you’, this NLP principle places the onus on you to vary your communication style to be more influential. the buck rests with you, and if at first you don’t succeed, try something different. Many times we misunderstand each other, as if we are speaking foreign languages:

I say Tomato, you say Tom Ate O, let’s call the whole thing off

In practice, you can use this idea in the following ways:

Try explaining yourself from the other person’s point of view

Explain yourself in the language they would prefer rather than your own preferences. Live inside their world, not yours

Ask them to explain what they don’t understand or accept, then move on from there

We live inside our own skins for much of thIn some cases, no matter hard we try, some people are “on the Central Line” and others “on the Circle” metaphorically speaking … of course there are points at which these tube lines meet … :-) Check the 1948 tube map out to think about how you can meet people in a conversation where they are rather than where you are:

Skilled negotiators and influencers understand and use these skills naturally but they can also be learned and refined. Check out our offerings in this area at Human Dynamics or give us a call to set up some NLP master coaching.

Of course some people are just really “hard to read” as illustrated by this cat cartoon from my friend’s cousin, the great Steve Bell – such people make great poker players amongst other life and business skills. More on this in another article to demystify and cut the crap (but not the cats) out of NLP.

We finish with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers on the vexed question of communication excellence:

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Human Dynamics offers better business and organisation development, training and coaching. Our sister company The Academy of Rock specialises in cross-disciplinary learning on business and music, delivered through conference keynotes and longer masterclasses.

Do order your copy of the NEW edition of “The Music of Business” – Parallel lessons on Business and Music. Acclaimed by Professor Adrian Furnham and Harvey Goldsmith CBE.

Management Talk

Wesley Gransden is the host of a new series called Management Talk and I was honoured to be his first guest the other week. Click on the image to hear his first show:

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We had a different kind of chat about the good, bad and ugly of management and leadership, including the following themes:

  1. How do you manage your career?
  2. What have management and music got in common?
  3. Why does cognitive dissonance matter in business?
  4. How can you get the best out of people that are different to you?
  5. What can we learn from Sir Richard Branson and Clive Sinclair about innovation?
  6. What is mathematical creativity?  How can we use it?
  7. Is everyone creative?
  8. How do leaders use emotional intelligence to create great results?
  9. What is a Brain Based Enterprise and who is doing this?
  10. What’s in the new edition of The Music of Business?

Listen in to Management Talk, grab a copy of the book and contact us to meet for a free consultation in London or by Skype. Later in the year we will be back on the show with our version of Desert Island Management Discs …

Click on the picture to check the book out

Click on the picture to check the book out

Leadership in Poland

We are delighted to be heading to Warsaw on June 23/24 to lead a masterclass event on business leadership mixed with parallel lessons from music.  We are also delivering the keynote address and co-hosting a rock music after party following an exclusive dinner on June 23 at the prestigious Pure Sky Club – Warsaw’s premier business club. Head over to the event website to find all the details.

The event, masterminded by Brian Allan, Malgorzata Krukowska, Filip Sobiecki and Paul Cowen, is to include keynotes, workshops, panel sessions and live music sessions to engage minds, bodies and souls. The dinner reception on the previous evening is an exclusive affair. You are strongly advised to book now if you wish to gain a seat at the Captain’s Table, to network with some of Poland’s greatest business leaders. Sponsorship opportunities are also available at the website.

Purple is my favourite colour and it features strongly at the Pure Sky Club – Pictured Brian, Malgorzata and Paul, owner of the business venue

The Polish Economy is one of the fastest growing in Europe, predicted to grow at between 3-4% over the next few years. Speaking personally I love Poland and the Polish people, having visited several times. I was also blessed to have worked with one of the greatest marketing people on the planet from Poland a few years back, in the form of Magdalena Rotsztejn.

Book now for the exclusive dinner and networking event and the masterclass itself at Leadership in Poland. I’m also available for 1:1 coaching sessions or just for informal discussions on Friday 25th June before I return to UK.

Pure Sky – Pure Leadership – Pure Rock’n’Roll

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Order your copy of the NEW edition of “The Music of Business” – Parallel lessons on Business and Music. Or grab a copy of Sex, Leadership and Rock’n’Roll in Polish!

The Music of Business Volume II

I’m delighted to announce the launch of a new edition of “The Music of Business”. Signed copies are available direct – simply mail me at peter@humdyn.co.uk You can also order via Cultured Llama Publishers and all the usual places, or join us at the book launch event – details below. The book fuses MBA level lessons on strategy, creativity, innovation, leadership and change with parallel insights from the world of music. Here’s six themes from the book:

1. What can you learn from life in a rock band that is not taught on an MBA programme? I met with Metro Bank and Innocent Drinks last week and both of them pointed out that they hire for attitude above anything else, in common with Sir Richard Branson and Virgin. Generally speaking MBA programmes are a knowledge factory and don’t work on attitude. I’ve taught MBA programmes for nearly 20 years and worked with bands for longer than that so I’m well qualified to make this statement. The blend of MBA + Attitude is an almost unique combination, Professor Adrian Furnham, author of some 80 books on business psychology had this to say on the fusion:

2. How can you be truly adaptive? People talk of adaptive business and learning organisations but how can you truly develop a business that has chameleon like characteristics without losing the benefits of having a longer term posture? Despite my personal dislike for the Sat Nav in my Prius, Toyota remain an excellent company in terms of innovation and adaptability.

2 Toyota Fact File

3. What can we learn from Brian Eno, David Bowie, Jeff Beck and jazz virtuosos about strategies for creativity? Creativity is identified as one of the most important skills for individuals and companies in the 21st century by the IBM study. Simplicity is just one of the hallmarks of what makes for creativity that turns into innovation. Simply stated:

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4. What can we learn about the psychological concept of flow from music? Here’s a snippet from our masterclass on effortless mastery which is available in your company featuring the cello playing of Silvia Impellizzeri.

Flow 2

From Sicily - Silvia Impellizzeri - City Headhuntress, NLP Master, Cello Player

From Sicily – Silvia Impellizzeri – City Headhuntress, NLP Master, Cello Player

5. When innovating, how can you learn from musical concepts such as dissonance and consonance to help you design products and services better? We explore these and many other concepts in an engaging way without all the business jargon which makes the average business book dull. Larry Eliot at The Guardian and Perry Timms at the CIPD agree:

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6. What can you learn about peak performance and other matters from Prince? I’ve been privileged to meet George Clinton and Sheila E this year, both major influences on Prince and outstanding performers in their own right. Prince seems to have an illuminated view on the theory of constraints.

Prince on improvisation

Image by corporate illustrator Simon Heath @simonheath1


Come to our launch party on the evening of Tuesday June 9th – featuring Richard Strange, Leader of underground proto-punk band The Doctors of Madness, an actor who has appeared in Harry Potter, Batman, Robin Hood and who has performed with Tom Waits, Peter Capaldi (Doctor Who etc.), Gary Kemp (Spandau Ballet), Marianne Faithful et al. Tickets available only from Book Launch Event, priced £10.

So, get hold of your copies of The Music of Business alongside it’s sister volume Punk Rock People Management. Or book us for a masterclass in your company with a celebrity guest, to make your event unforgettable.