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:


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.

Charity begins at The Bank of England …

I have just written, arranged and recorded some songs on “economics futures” for our 2015 Charity campaign with Dr Andrew Sentance, former MPC member at The Bank of England, Haydn Jones, Managing Director at Fujitsu, alongside a band of musicians featuring Rick Benbow, a session musician and member of Brit Floyd, who recently scored Status Quo’s “Aquostic” album. The triple A side EP “Rockonomics” was engineered by Ozzy Osbourne and Ian Gillan’s former guitarist Bernie Tormé.

The Old Lady of Threadneedle Street is ravished

The Old Lady of Threadneedle Street is ravished

The songs tell tales of eMen’eM (Macro-economic Mayhem (Yes, I know there are not so many hits written about such things!!):

New Normal” predicts a flatter economic forecast and was a term coined by Andrew Sentance in his first book. The song is set in a Neil Young / R.E.M inspired rebel rant.

The Old Lady of Threadneedle Street” (formerly “Forward Guidance” after Governor of The Bank of England, Mark Carney’s catchphrase) is a Blackmore’s Night and Led Zeppelinesque inspired 16th century folk rock anthem that calls bankers, brokers and bosses to rethink the fundamentals on which capitalism rests.

Plus the bonus track “Fiscal Cliff” which I wrote for a BBC programme. Almost as soon as I’d finished it, the BBC were instructed by the Government to stop talking the economy down, so I lost my money and it never made the programme.  That’s the media for you! :-(

We are selling the songs with the option to donate a significant amount to a basket of charities. We are also available for live performances supported by keynote talks in the Square Mile or indeed anywhere around the world. Click the picture to donate by buying the songs plus a bonus track now:

Our Charities

By far the best option for purchase is Bandcamp, as the vast majority of the money reaches the chosen charities with Bandcamp only taking a modest commission. Buy the triple A side EP at TRIPLE A SIDE. Or individual tracks via SINGLES.  The songs will be available on iTunes / Amazon etc. shortly if you just want the tracks without a charitable donation. Meet the band:

Dr Andrew Sentance – Acoustic Guitar, Backing Vocals, Economics
Zee Fincham – Lead Vocals
Rick Benbow – Keyboards
Pete Stephens – Drums, percussion
Haydn Jones – Bass guitar, vocals
Peter Cook – Lead guitars, rhythm guitar, acoustic guitar, musical direction

Rock in the City

Rock in the City L-R : Moi, Haydn Jones, Pete Stephens, Zee Fincham, Rick Benbow and Dr Andrew Sentance

The Old Lady of Threadneedle Street - inspired by Stairway to Heaven - Robert Plant looks amused - Photography by my friend Christina Jansen

The Old Lady of Threadneedle Street – inspired by Stairway to Heaven – Robert Plant looks bemused – Photograph by my good friend, the lovely Christina Jansen

Here’s the video for the bonus track: “Fiscal Cliff” – a hard rock song for hard times – the forerunner to the Rock In The City sessions:


For fresh thinking on Business grab copies of our books on Amazon, including new editions of “The Music of Business” and a 2nd edition of “Punk Rock People Management” – disruptive strategy and common sense ideas about leading your people.

Pre-order our new book for Bloomsbury at Leading Innovation, Creativity and Enterprise.  Groundbreaking thought leadership on leading and managing Brain Based Enterprises where thinking and doing are aligned in perfect harmony.

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.


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:


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

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

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


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

Poland Rocks

“When I want sax, I call Candy” – Photography by Michał Ozdoba

I visited Poland to give a Leadership and Music Masterclass just recently. I also attended an after party with some of Poland’s finest musicians, who gave me CD’s of their music. One of them even supported me in giving a cameo performance at very short notice. Featuring superb playing by the band members and the sax work of Karolina Malwina (Candy Dulfer) Dąbrowska. Here are some samples of all the bands’ work:

Hanza – A superb hard rock band that has been around for two years. They play songs that rock hard with haunting vocals and have just signed a contract, for their debut album being released on September 11th 2015.  Hanza played in a TV show “Świat się kręci” (“The world is spinning”) on national TV and played a show in the legendary SO36 club in Berlin, to incredible acclaim by both the crowd and the other bands.

Faith Healer – A band from the Netherlands – These guys rock hard. I watched some of the members perform some Whitesnake and Bon Jovi songs unplugged at the Pure Sky Club. Strangely I interviewed Bernie Marsden from Whitesnake just the other day. Faith Healer blend great vocal harmonies and metal hammerings in a melodic setting. Don’t call the doctor – just check their original material out:

Here I go again - With Whitesnake's Bernie Marsden

Here I go again – With Whitesnake’s Bernie Marsden

The Rookles‘ band name is based on a fusion of The Rutles and The Beatles. The band write classy pop songs in this style with beautiful 3 part harmonies. Great pop music that honours its influences from the Fab Four, Squeeze, Elvis Costello and many more. Check their album Open Space out.

PrimeTime – Great band, great musicians and great attitude, the band has a particularly unusual vocal style. Comparisons are invidious but I heard some influences from some great indie bands of the 90’s coming through including The Cult. Check their song out Into The Sun”

Slimmotion – The closest comparison I could make was the Red Hot Chilli Peppers – not a bad comparison at all. Hard and funky. Oh that guitar sound and the open hat – just right for a good bit of moshing.

Killing Silence – Haunting songs that combine great vocals with a superb rhythm section which drive the songs along. Great bass playing and an almost theatrical performance and a nod to Dave Grohl in their sound and performance.

Unity – A classic rock combo with a superbly produced album called Promised Land.  Love the song Godamn Bloody Kangaroo – a bit of a chilli pepper in this one as well. A bit of stadium rock in the song Lost Highway – David Coverdale meets Bon Jovi.

The Pure Sky Club ROCKS - Photography by Michał Ozdoba

The Pure Sky Club ROCKS – Photography by Michał Ozdoba

A is for Attitude

A is for Attitude – Photography by Michał Ozdoba

Some of the madding crowd - Photography by Michał Ozdoba

Some of the madding crowd – Photography by Michał Ozdoba

The Master of Ceremonies - Mr Brian Allan - Photograph Michał Ozdoba -

The Master of Ceremonies – Mr Brian Allan – Photograph Michał Ozdoba –

Far from the madding crowd  - Photography by Michał Ozdoba

Far from the madding crowd – Photography by Michał Ozdoba


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!  Peter’s new book comes out in February 2016 with Bloomsbury – the home of Harry Potter.

Check our music and business events out at The Academy of Rock.

Release date 25.02.16

Release date 25.02.16

Business Leadership Rocks Warsaw

I was delighted to travel to Warsaw to deliver a Leadership Programme in partnership with The Pure Sky Club, Bentley, Lafarge, Businessman Today, Legimi, AntyRadio and Quadrilion Art Gallery. Our agenda was:

The Music of Business – exploring parallel lessons between music and business.

Far from the madding crowd

Far from the madding crowd – with Paul Cowen, Agnieszka Kupczynski, Filip Sobiecki and Brian McBride

Personal Transformation – delivered by Federico Tonetti, Director General, Lafarge. Lafarge is well known as a manufacturer of cement products but even its business model has been rocked to the foundations by disruptive forces. Federico presented a compelling vision of transformation and explained how it could be translated into a corporate context.

In my Madonna hed gear - at the Pure Sky Club - photos by Piotr Myzskowski

In my Madonna head gear – at the Pure Sky Club – photos by Piotr Myzskowski

The Mathematics of Trust – delivered by Sebastian Kotow, Quadrilion Art Gallery. Sebastian is a business psychologist with specific interests in management decision making and bias.

Punk Rock People Management – a look at the strategic and practical management of people through the medium of punk rock – shorter, simpler and more authentic business and HR.

The madding crowd at the aftershow at Pure Sky Club

The madding crowd at the aftershow at Pure Sky Club

The Virgin Way – a look at the Culture and Leadership practices of the Virgin group, informed by the work I’ve done for Virgin in the last year or so.

Plus an exclusive gala dinner at The Pure Sky Club hosted by Paul Cowen, a panel session hosted by Brian Allan and an after party featuring the best Polish rock bands in the capital.

Here’s one of the slide decks from the event and a video from the warm up event at Quadrilion:

I’m most grateful to Brian Allan, Malgorzata Krukowska, Filp Sobieki, Sebastian Kotow and Paul Cowen for arranging everything.

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 ordered now.

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.

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

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.