Parallel Lines

I was delighted to speak with Paul Kwiecinski, Co-Owner of “Face The Music” recently. It seems we have been developing our respective businesses along parallel lines, on opposite sides of The Atlantic Ocean in what could be described as a piece of simultaneous invention.

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Face The Music shows surprising parallels with our own work at The Academy of Rock and we have been running our respective businesses for similar lengths of time. Great minds literally have thought alike in what is known as simultaneous innovation. Paul explains the concept:

Face The Music is a collaboration between great musicians and experienced organizational consultants who bring a uniquely powerful mix to clients’ programs and events. And while we are definitely entertaining, we are not mere entertainment. Rather our music events are a powerful catalyst for teamwork and organizational change — using a variety of musical genres as our toolkit — to help organizations become higher performing, more innovative, and just plain cooler places to work.

Perhaps an easy way to understand Face The Music’s work is to see it through  the eyes of a customer, in this case CNN News:

Paul has an impressive client list who have chosen to work with him because they seek greater engagement, authentic relations between coworkers, real organisational improvements and so on. As he points out, it’s not just entertaining. It’s about engaging people’s heads, hearts and souls in their work as most serious enterprises understand.

At face value, it may seem odd to be writing about a potential competititor. It is not. This blend of music and experienced organisation consultants is an extremely hard act to pull off as I know through some 15 + years of development of the approach. We’re hoping that more people will get to learn of our work and choose this over a beige approach to business and organisation development. Both Paul and I travel the world and hope to collaborate at some stage. Come join us and Face The Music.

Check our post on Seasick Steve as well. Speaking of NYC, here’s another product of New York, from the album Parallel Lines:

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For more on Music and Business grab your copy of The Music of Business.

Click on the picture to check the book out

Seasick Steve

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I was blessed to witness a performance by Seasick Steve the other week at the Ramblin’ Man Fair in Maidstone. In case you are not aware, Steven Gene Wold is a 73 year old blues musician who left home at the age of 13 to avoid abuse by his stepfather, travelling as a hobo on freight trains for much of his early life. Having worked with people such as Joni Mitchell and been a studio engineer and producer, he made his breakthrough at the age of 62 after an appearance on “Later with Jools Holland”, thus proving that it’s never too late to start a new career in the music business.

Steve is living proof that less can equal more in life. Amongst the guitars he plays he has the one pictured above, made from car hubcaps and a broomstick. He also plays a one string guitar, a neat demonstration of the theory of constraints and his famous three string Trance Wonder, pictured below:

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Amongst the artists that we interviewed at the Ramblin’ Man Fair were Bernie Marsden, Marillion, Joanne Shaw Taylor, Bob Wayne, Jess and the Bandits, The Temperance Movement, Blue Oyster Cult, Aaron Keylock, The Quireboys, No Hot Ashes, The Rival Sons, narrowly missing Vic Reeves, Ian Anderson and Saxon. Check out our interviews with Music Giants at Interviews to see these in due course.

We finish with some of the great man’s work with one string, three stringed guitars etc.

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For more on Music and Business grab your copy of The Music of Business.

Check our offerings on the blues and motivation at Keynotes.

Click on the picture to check the book out

Click on the picture to check the book out

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

Axe Victims

Recently I organised an amazing project to bring 6 perfect strangers together from all over the UK to Bernie Torme’s Studio in the garden of England, with the sole ambition of honouring my friend Bill Nelson, leader of English pop art groups Be-Bop Deluxe and Red Noise. Bill has given us over 40 years of pleasure through his continuous creativity. United only by a shared purpose and passion for Bill’s music we set about recording three songs by Bill’s first group Be-Bop Deluxe, ending up in recording four in just under 6 hours. The background story as to how we managed to achieve so much from a cold start is worth exploring. In just 22 hours, the band formed, stormed, normed, performed and reformed from perfect strangers to permanent flames.

The Lazing Apostles L-R: Robert Craven, Tim Hands, Neil Turnbull (seated), Graham Burgess (seated), Bernie Torme, moi et Bryn Bardsley

This experience teaches us important transferable lessons about how to develop a high performance team in record time from an extremely unpromising start point.

Get Great Raw Materials

The “Lazing Apostles” (a spoof on one of Bill’s songs entitled Blazing Apostles) were selected using the internet after I placed an online “advert” for band members on Facebook. There were no auditions, interviews or psychometric tests. Nobody knew each other before we met with the exception of the drummer, who I worked with during my time at The Wellcome Foundation. It seemed that everyone intuitively understood the “job spec” and the level of capabilities required. All I did prior to meeting face to face was to arrange a brief meeting on Skype for an initial social chat.

The facebook advert and job spec

The band we ended up with were a motley crew:

  1. Tim Hands – Lead Vocals – Acoustic Guitar – Tim works on film productions for Handsome Sound Ltd – Lives in Market Harborough
  2. Neil Turnbull – Drums and Percussion – Neil is a worldwide pharmaceutical troubleshooter for Pfizer – also a drummer with heavy metal band Sacrilege. A resident of Whitstable in Kent
  3. Robert Craven – Electric rhythm guitar – Robert is an author of 10 books on marketing and small business leadership. MD at The Directors’ Centre – Based in Bristol
  4. Bryn Bardsley – Bass supremo – Bryn is a professional musician having worked in corporate life for many years – Lives in the frozen north and works as an odd job man
  5. Graham Burgess – Keyboards – Graham performs in a number of Progressive Rock bands – I know little else about him – From Hastings – is a senior member of the local council
  6. Moi – Lead guitar and backing vocals – enough said – A man of Kent

Two management consultants, a film producer, an odd job man, a council officer, a druggist – not quite the usual rock’n’roll credentials!!

Bill Nelson with one of his early heroes, Duane Eddy. Check Bill’s latest work out at Bill Nelson.com

Combine Passion with Purpose

We had agreed to attempt three songs on the day, possibly two if things went less well. I converged our song choices to three using a Delphi type process using a secret ballot on a list of songs chosen by the group. This meant there was a razor sharp focus to deliver these songs on the day and no divergence to try other songs. This is essential under limited time conditions. We also agreed the structures of each song through e-mails and sharing definitive template versions of the songs from Youtube. Each member then set about learning their parts individually – there were no joint practices and fairly little discussion prior to meeting in person.

Getting the Chemistry right

Given our complete lack of playing together, we sensibly agreed to meet at Bernie’s studio the night before, with the ambition of running through the songs once or twice and having a few beers to develop the essential “psychological contract”. We needed just over an hour of physical practice before we retired to the pub to let our work incubate over night …

Chemistry matters – gelling diverse talents and drinking chemicals (beer)

Rules of engagement

Without the use of a flip chart or holding hands in a circle, everyone in the band got the rules of engagement.  In hindsight, I think they were:

  1. Take no prisoners – We delegated authority over musical direction to Bernie Torme who simply told us when we had done enough etc.
  2. No pussyfooting – at various times we needed to substitute someone in the band to play a part. For example I simply wasn’t “feeling the love” when playing acoustic guitar on Crying To The Sky. Unlike some bands, this was done without fuss or damaging egos.
  3. Playfulness – although we were under some time pressure, it was a true joy to play with the other band members and we all enjoyed various mistakes we made, supporting each other etc.

The real boss - Bernie Torme - click to find his tour dates and studio

The real boss – Bernie Torme – click the image to check his tour dates out

Start with the end in mind

Given the huge geographical separation of the band members (I estimate we travelled some 1500 miles between us to attend the recording session), the most important thing we did was to lock in the recording date at the beginning. Creativity and genius counts for nothing if you are not all in the same room at the same time!

80 percent of success is showing up”

Woody Allen

Here are the four songs we produced on the day, plus the ‘re-enactment’ of the cover of “Sunburst Finish” shown above, sans nudity and perspex cage, otherwise completely accurate in all respects! :-) We are planning a return project at some point.

 

“Sign your name with a star”

Bill Nelson at the awards ceremony for his “Wakefield Star” award

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Peter Cook offers keynotes that blend World Class Thinking with parallel lessons from music via The Academy of Rock and better Business and Organisation Development via Human Dynamics.

Read more about Bill Nelson in the book “The Music of Business

Hard Rock Heaven

I’m performing again with Bernie Tormé, former guitarist with Ozzy Osbourne and Deep Purple’s Ian Gillan at London’s prestigious Borderline venue on Saturday October 31st. The concert is in support of Bernie’s crowdfunding project to record a new album. There’s just a few days left to get involved in this awesome project. We just recorded a four track EP at Bernie’s studio in one day. He has several guitar lessons left and you can even bring your band to jam with the man at his studio – spending a few hours with a master musician at an incredible price, plus albums, t-shirts and so on. Click on the logo to find out more:

Click to join Bernie's crowdfunding project and be part of a unique phenomenon

Click to join Bernie’s crowdfunding project and be part of a unique phenomenon – hurry now – there’s just a few days to go before the project ends

Get yourself a ticket to this once in a lifetime event at The Borderline. Here I reflect on important lessons about high performance from my previous experiences in corporate life and the school of hard rocks.

Prepare if you want to be spontaneous

I had just a 3 minute soundcheck at Bernie’s last gig so there was no time to find out about the band’s “chemistry” on the night itself. Fortunately I had done some preparation beforehand to study all that was necessary to be a reasonably good team member without extensive practice. For me, this mirrors many situations in business life where there is no rehearsal time.  The lesson is that preparation is key to spontaneity and high performance. It’s what Tom Peters calls the 10 000 hours effect.

A similar thing happened the other week at a leadership event I ran in Warsaw. Despite meticulous preparations by the organisers, we ended up arriving late for the event due to gridlock in the city. I always have a plan B, C and D for such situations, and we had to operate most of these in the event, including running the event ‘backwards’ whilst various items that had been promised were located. However, there is always something new to learn and I had not planned for an on-stage electrocution due to an earth loop! Fortunately it was only 48 volts.  This is not what I really mean when I talk about High Voltage Performance!! The audience seemed to think it was all part of my act …

I wanna be electrocuted ... with Alice Cooper

I wanna be electrocuted … with Alice Cooper

The moment just before electrocution by Brian Allan - at The Quadrilion Art Gallery in Warsaw

The moment just before electrocution by Brian Allan when guitar connected with microphone – at The Quadrilion Art Gallery in Warsaw

Relax, stay focused, be creative

On the morning of the main event in Warsaw, the promised guitar failed to arrive for a set of odd reasons. The MD of the Blue Sky Club arrived to tell me the news just 15 minutes before we were due to start in front of a large audience. He clearly expected me to throw a tantrum. Instead I told him it would be alright and then scratched my head. I thought I’d go and make some enquiries with some audience members who had been talking to me about instruments. Within minutes, it turned out that one of the delegate’s wives was Marketing Director for The Hard Rock Cafe (next door). We were promised a guitar and the show carried on. The lessons here are:

Don’t panic

Stay focused

Be creative to reach your goal

Sometimes life throws up a better option when a crisis occurs ....

Sometimes life throws up a better option when a crisis occurs ….

So, whilst it’s nice when things go to plan, they don’t always and the smart money is on planning for sh…t to happen rather than making sh….t happen.

Book yourself a ticket to The Borderline for October 31st now and take a look at the great things on offer in Bernie’s latest crowdfunding project with Pledge Music. Bernie kindly credited me alongside Arthur Brown, Dee Snider and Ginger Wildheart on his last album release. This is the kind of testimonial that beats ‘happy sheets’ at the end of a course by a country mile and sits well alongside kind words from Harvey Goldsmith, Professor Adrian Furnham, Charles Handy, Bill Nelson, Sheila E and Tom Peters.

Bernie Torme - a gentle giant

Bernie Torme – a gentle giant

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Peter Cook leads Human Dynamics and The Academy of Rock. Author of and contributor to ten books on business leadership, creativity and innovation. His latest offerings “Punk Rock People Management” – 2nd Edition and a NEW edition of “The Music of Business” may be ordered now.

Book your ticket for a great night in London at the Borderline on Saturday October 31 at The Borderline.

Sheila E – Musical Director, Sex Cymbal

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I interviewed Sheila E just recently on her world tour. Sheila Escovedo is a world-class drummer, percussionist whose credits read like chapters in a music history book: Pete Escovedo, Marvin Gaye, Prince, Beyoncé, Herbie Hancock, Diana Ross, Lionel Richie, Ringo Star, Stevie Wonder, Gloria Estefan and George Duke.

Having been Prince’s musical director, I was interested in Sheila’s ability to lead teams of musical giants amongst the many things we talked about. Have a look at the interview below. Although we had been given a total of 10 minutes to set up and conduct the interview, Sheila was extremely generous with her time given her schedule giving us a full half hour of her time – something she really did not have to do, given her schedule. I am so grateful to her for taking time out to give us insights into her work as a leader among giants. An even greater private joy was when I discovered that Sheila recognised my book “Sex, Leadership and Rock’n’Roll“. I gave a copy to Prince in 2007.

A Love Bizarre – Our film interview with Sheila E from ME1TV

Leadership lessons from Sheila Escovedo

Time and Timing : The musicians at the back of the stage are vital to the success of the musicians at the front of the stage. A great rhythm section makes the difference to peak performance. Time and Timing are essential and this is as true in business and life as it is in music.

Fans and Followers : The importance of playing to the people at the back of the hall as well as those at the front. This point is directly transferable to all walks of life in terms of reaching the customers who are fans and those who are maybe less fanatical.

True professionalism : True professionals in music are great at what they do, but they are also punctual and organised. Sheila learned this point from her father Pete. You may be the greatest technician in the world as a business leader, but if you are late for a meeting, your technical skills count for nothing. If one person is 10 minutes late at a meeting with six others present, a whole hour has been wasted.

As a Musical Director, Sheila emphasises the importance of treating everyone in the band with respect if you are to get the best out of the whole team. This of course includes the support team in a musical performance. I watched in awe as Sheila patiently put the band through it’s paces, talking to sound engineers to make sure the whole team were involved in the success of the enterprise. This rare glimpse into the secret life of a leader was a true masterclass meticulous preparation in itself.

Down in the hood – with some of Sheila’s admirers at The Brooklyn Bowl – picture credit Marcus Docherty  – Click on the picture to go to Sheila E’s website

Creativity and incubation : Sheila talked of the value of incubation in turning embryonic ideas into polished jewels. It’s a principle identified by Wallas in 1926, which I’m currently writing about in my Bloomsbury book, but forgotten by all but true creativity professionals.

Learning from family members : Sheila pointed out how she had learned intuitively from her father, just by listening intently and then mirroring the patterns, he played without ever having a formal music lesson. It’s a point I resonated strongly with and here’s the post on what I learned from my father : Dear Dad.

Song for my father – Sheila performing with Pete Escovedo and my old Dad as a young man around 1920 – click on the bicycle to read the article on my father 

Learning from giants : Paraphrasing Sheila when she was talking about learning from musical innovator and mentor George Duke:

“We just closed our eyes and listened – we didn’t even know where the ‘one’ was”

Sheila E’s new book is called The Beat of my own Drum. Check out her recent album Icon and her new club, The E Spot.

Sheila’s work in schools, bringing the joy of music to underprivileged children and her community project Elevate Oakland.

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Our new book on Leadership, Innovation and Creativity is scheduled for 2016 release with Bloomsbury.

In the meantime, do order your copy of the NEW edition of “The Music of Business” – Parallel lessons on Business and Music.

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.