Talkin’ ’bout a Revolution

Going way back in time to the point when I first started doing talks about business and music, here is my deeply ironic translation of the lyrics from The Beatles’ song “Revolution”, reset in the context of the management of change.  It is a great tale of the difference between vision and action.  I’ve set out the original lyrics first and my translations in bold italics!  Admittedly the new lyrics do not scan and that perhaps accounts for why Lennon did not use them …  In case you don’t know the song you young people, here’s a video clip:

VERSE 1

Say you wanna revolution, well, you know

So, you are an advocate of Business Process Re-engineering and radical change

We all wanna change the world

Yeh, that’s what the workers want – creative leadership

You tell me that it’s evolution, well you know

But then you come on with benchmarking and TQM, man

We all wanna change the world

Yeh, we need to reform the bureaucratic paradigm, man

But when you talk about destruction

But when you say we have to drop our existing products

Don’t you know you can count me out 

I’m not sure I wanna be on the project team 

Talkin' 'bout a Revolution

Talkin’ ’bout a Revolution

VERSE 2

You say you’ve got a real solution, well you know

You’ve seen Ricardo Semler and have swiped his vision

 We’d all love to see the plan

Intuition’s fine but I’m not a bloody mind reader 

You ask me for a contribution, well you know

Then you ask me to ‘buy in’ to something I can’t even see

We’re all doin’ what we can

Well, I’m trying but can’t you give me some clear goals? 

But if you want money from people with minds that hate

So if you want the ‘late majority’ to come on board 

All I can tell you brother is you’ll have to wait

You’ll have to do better than a mission statement! 

Beautiful Boy

Beautiful Boy

 VERSE 3

You say you’ve changed the constitution, well you know

You’ve rewritten the KPI’s and the reward strategy

We all wanna change your head

We all wanna change our jobs

You tell me it’s the institution, well you know 

You tell me now that it’s the ‘culture’ and IT systems

You’d better free your mind instead 

You’d better start modelling some change yourself!

But if you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao 

If you keep bringing in iconic examples of success

You ain’t gonna make it with anyone anyhow 

Chaos theory predicts that we’ll build in further resistance to the change programme

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About the Author:  Peter Cook leads The Academy of Rock – Keynote events with a difference and Human Dynamics – Business and Organisation Development, Training and Coaching. Contact via peter@humdyn.co.uk or +44 (0) 7725 927585.

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Paul Mc Cartney

FT Beatles salmon SMALL

Sargent Pepper’s Lonely Asset Management Company …

What can one say about the innovation and creativity skills of a man who composed songs ranging from Eleanor Rigby, The Long and Winding Road, Blackbird to The Frog Song? Let’s start at the beginning:

Beginnings

Paul Mc Cartney was born on 18th June 1942 to parents who were around 40 years old when he arrived. Much of his early life was spent playing on bomb sites on the outskirts of Speke in Liverpool. His father was a jazz musician, playing the trumpet and a self taught pianist. He used to tell Paul “Learn to play the piano – you will get invited to parties”

LIverpool around the time of Paul Mc Cartney's birth

Liverpool around the time of Paul Mc Cartney’s birth

One of the most important elements of the bond between Lennon and Mc Cartney was the fact that both of them had lost their mothers early on in their lives. A partnership needs a bond and early childhood experiences are frequently very powerful in this respect. Other examples include Simon and Garfunkel and Mick Jagger and Keith Richard, who were childhood classmates. All proof positive that you really just need “A little help from your friends” …

Help - The Beatles as represented by Corporate Artist Simon Heath - Twitter @simonheath1

Help!! – The Beatles as represented by Consulting Artist and friend Simon Heath – Twitter @simonheath1

Creative Tension

It is reckoned that Lennon and Mc Cartney were quite different personalities. See an assessment of the Fab Four’s Myers Briggs types. There is of course some disagreement as to where each of them sit as (a) your type varies over time and (b) it’s rather difficult to assess John and George these days … 😦 Some argue that John Lennon was an ENTP, which is my own type – a rare breed. In any case, it’s interesting to note that all of The Beatles occupied essentially minority types, especially George Harrison who conceived of the idea to produce large scale concerts to highlight world poverty issues long before Bob Geldof got on the case with Live Aid etc.

The case for diversity

The case for diversity

Mc Cartney and Innovation

Paul Mc Cartney is perhaps a lower risk taker than John Lennon, what psychologist Professor Michael Kirton would call an adaptor, as compared with those people he classed as innovators. Adaptors tend to work within the system, producing ideas that are more within accepted wisdom and so on whereas innovators tend to challenge existing norms, producing more radical ideas, some of which are impractical. Contrast “Yesterday”, written by Mc Cartney with “I am the Walrus”, written predominantly by Lennon. In business, adaptors often have greater success than innovators, as they tend to produce ideas that are less challenging and which are recognised by consumers in the marketplace as being a logical build on existing ideas. Often we need both innovators and adaptors to produce sustainable innovations: The innovators to produce the hard-to-copy ideas and; the adaptors to help bring the ideas into a practical market focus. Here’s a graphic comparison of the two types, with Mc Cartney perhaps being the more adaptive individual and Lennon the more innovative one. This probably explains the intense different loyalties between fans of Lennon or Mc Cartney.

Innovators and Adaptors compared through the metaphor of building a pyramid

Innovators and Adaptors compared through the metaphor of building a pyramid

Whereas Paul Mc Cartney has traversed musical genres, these have tended to be within existing musical paradigms, for example in his writing of Standing Stones, an album of original classics. He has also tended to be a great arranger of other people’s music. For example Mc Cartney wrote the distinctive mellotron introduction “Strawberry Fields Forever” for John Lennon. His latest album, entitled “New”, provides us with a set of Beatles’ inspired songs. After all, he has nothing to prove. This does not mean that he did not produce anything outside the paradigm. For example it was Mc Cartney that instigated the use of tape loops on “Revolver”. Here is the title track from the album – some shades of Sargent Pepper in this I feel …

Mc Cartney and Creativity

Paul Mc Cartney says that he still seeks advice from John Lennon when songwriting, imagining what John would advise him to do. This skill is what psychologists call projection and fantasy and is embodied in creativity techniques such as ‘Superheroes’, ‘The Disney Creativity Strategy’, ‘Six Thinking Hats’, ‘Wishing’ and so on. Here’s a graphical view of some creativity tools which one of our clients devised at the end of a masterclass event we designed for them, with a representation of the Superheroes approach in the centre. Can you guess what the others are?

Some creativity strategies summarised by one of our clients - in graphical form

Some creativity strategies summarised by one of our clients – in graphical form

He also exhibits playfulness in his approach to creativity. For example, Mc Cartney woke up with “Yesterday” in his head.  For several weeks the lyrics to “Yesterday” were “Scrambled eggs, oh my baby how I love your legs”. I certainly identify with the idea of putting down a prototype in order to develop an idea into an innovation, both in my life as a musician and as a Research and Development Scientist. Sometimes, putting down any idea produces the creative tension needed to develop a better idea.

There’s more on The Beatles and Creativity in the books “Sex, Leadership and Rock’n’Roll” and “The Music of Business“. We are currently considering some corporate events with the cast of “Let It Be”, as it turns out that I’ve performed with “Paul Mc Cartney” at open mic jam sessions in my home town a few times over the years. Contact us for more details or to arrange a unique business masterclass or conference.

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About the Author:  Peter Cook leads The Academy of Rock – Keynote events with a difference and Human Dynamics – Business and organisation development, training and coaching.  Contact via peter@humdyn.co.uk or +44 (0) 7725 927585

Beatles 2

Still Life with Apple, Mac ca and The Beatles

Killing me softly – An interview with Roberta Flack

Killing me softly with her words - Miss Roberta Flack

Killing me softly with her words – Miss Roberta Flack – Photo by Adam Coxon, The Lowdown Magazine

It was an unexpected delight to be invited to interview Roberta Flack recently, still performing at 75 years of age with a beautiful singing voice, wit charm and experience well beyond X-Factor and American Idol wannabes.  Let’s begin with a brief reminder of that beautiful singing, writing, playing and performing talent:

 

Here’s some insights from our dialogue which went on well past the TV interview:

Roberta on Teaching and Learning

Flack started her career teaching music at schools and privately in Washington D.C.  Reflecting on this she said she had some wonderful opportunities compared with the other students.  Teachers would leave the room and say “Carry on Roberta”.  Asked about what qualities they thought she possessed to get this request, Roberta said in a typically self-effacing manner that she had a fairly big mouth!  This ignores all her other qualities: an articulate style; a passion for her subject (in her case all forms of music) and an ability to reach other people’s heads, hearts and souls.  These are all transferable qualities for great leaders in any field. Asked what she had learned through her life she learned to appreciate everything that came her way, even those songs that she knew she could not or would not sing.  At one point she accompanied aspiring opera singers on piano in Georgetown and she got to meet and meet John F Kennedy, who attended the club.  In the course of working there, Flack had to learn to play songs that she had never played.  Reflecting on this she said:

“As a musician, when you get an opportunity to learn something that you don’t know, and to really learn and play it and execute it well, is such a thrill”

There is a direct parallel here for leaders in any field.  As Tom Peters says, execution is everything.  That relies on deep learning, the so-called 10 000 hours effect as quoted by Malcolm Gladwell. Musicians are used to the idea of deep practice as are great leaders.  Check out the full interview here:

 

Transferable Lesson : To become a great learner, learn to teach and teach people to learn

Roberta on Creativity and Reinterpretation

Flack took on the awesome task of reinterpreting a selection of songs by The Beatles in 2012 – Let It Be Roberta, having lived nearby to and also become good friends with John Lennon many years before. Reinterpreting a canon of work of such magnificence presents the artist with an enormous challenge as to how faithful you remain to the original or whether to do something quite different with the songs, which are almost untouchable. Flack wisely chose to do something different with the material to stunning effect. Reflecting on this, Roberta said that, it helped to be a classically trained musician. She was taught by Hazel Harrison, a music teacher from Howard University who excelled in Bach and music of the Baroque period. Roberta said:

“If you can hold on to your love for playing the piano and play Bach this way, rather than playing it like Chopin or Mozart, you will have accomplished something”

So, Flack learned to sight read all the pieces that the opera singers wanted her to play and make the music come to life rather than just to read the notes on the paper.  She was also stretched all the time by people who asked her to modify the pieces at will.  This level of adaptive behaviour provided her will the skill to get inside the heart of the musician and interpret the piece for the singers she had before her.  Undoubtedly this learning was formative in terms of her ability to reinterpret The Beatles material whilst staying true to the heart of the music.

Transferable Lesson : Act from your heart to find your soul

Roberta on new Business models

We held a fascinating after interview chat about Prince and his recent decision to work again with Warner Brothers after 20 years of producing his music independently. Roberta acknowledged the difficulty of gaining funding for your work in the modern age. Off camera we had a long chat about money and artistry. In her own case she set up The Real Artist Symposium, a gathering creative artists who own their own work and have worked with her to help give them a platform for their work.  This is just one of a number of new funding models that have emerged. We recently commented on Bernie Torme’s Crowdfunding Experiment as another exemplar of innovation.  These models are also apparent in other fields, such as publishing, where downloading has democratised the creative process but also made it much harder for artists to earn a living from their art. Business people would do well to learn that if what you are doing isn’t working, do something different.

Transferable Lesson : If your business model is broken, find a new one rather than banging your head against the same wall

And finally, a beautiful rendition of “Killing Me Softly”:

 

The first time ever I met Roberta Flack

The first time ever I met Roberta Flack

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About the Writer:  Peter Cook leads The Academy of Rock – Keynote events with a difference and Human Dynamics – Business and organisation development, training and coaching.  Contact via peter@humdyn.co.uk or +44 (0) 7725 927585.

With the Beatles

Poetry in motion

Poetry in motion

A little break from business this week with a superb poem produced by my friend Dr Reg Butterfield in Vienna using titles and lyrics from songs by The Beatles.  Reg has just written a free book about change and natural systems.  Contact him for a copy.

Dear Prudence

Do you want to know a secret

Ask me why

There’s a place

I should have known better

I don’t want to spoil the party

I’ve just seen a face

Tell me what you see

You won’t see me

What goes on

Here there and everywhere

I want to tell you

With a little help from my friends

All together now

We can work it out

Across the universe

Crying, waiting, hoping

Lonesome tears in my eyes

Ooh! My eyes

Ooh! My soul

How do you do it

You know what to do

All things must pass

I should have known better

I’m a loser

Contact Reg for your copy of “Change – A Personal view” by clicking the picture

Click to get a free copy of the book

Click to get a free copy of the book

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About the Author:  Peter Cook leads The Academy of Rock – Keynote events with a difference and Human Dynamics – Business and organisation development, training and coaching. Contact via peter@humdyn.co.uk or +44 (0) 7725 927585.  Check out our books via Amazon.

Box Set 7

It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine

Last week, the BBC reported on how ‘complacent’ British universities that fail to respond to the rise of online universities will be swept away by global competition.  Even Jimmy Wales of Wikipedia agreed – see Jimmy Wales.  I have to agree that the BBC, Wales and REM were right:  “It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine”.

Why so?  I worked for the Open University Business School for 18 years on their MBA programmes and certainly would not be where I am today without the superb learning that I gained from taking and teaching their programmes over an extended period.  I am eternally grateful to people such as David Mayle, John Martin, Norman Maxfield, Don Cooper and Jane Henry – modern day geniuses in their field.

However, despite my love of the institution, I must say that the university has been slow to respond to the changing expectations of the current generation of students.  From the white heat of technology in the 1960’s The Open University and many other traditional universities have turned into slow followers of change in the education sector.  I wish I could say otherwise.  Sir Michael Barber agreed: “There are too many universities doing the same thing.”  There are already big US networks of universities offering courses to students anywhere in the world, with two consortiums having already signed up almost four million students.

For my part, I was approached by Californian Online Learning Provider Udemy, who asked me to develop an MBA level online learning programme on Leadership, Strategy, Creativity, Innovation and Change.  The programme, entitled “The Music of Business” offers a contrast to traditional university courses:

  • The programme can be taken at the learner’s pace and their own time, as it is available for life, during which time it continues to be updated.
  • MBA level learning at non-MBA prices.
  • For individuals, the programme is available for direct purchase at $169.
  • Individuals can also join an affiliate scheme to gain an income from referrals.
  • For companies, the programme can be customised, licensed, branded and embedded on corporate online learning platforms.

Take a look at the syllabus:

Will Universities go the way of HMV?  The early warning signs are there.  Post your thoughts on the likely fate of our Universities here.   p.s. It’s got absolutely nothing to do with the post, but I enjoyed the REM track so much that I thought it was time to post another one:

The Long and Winding Road – Longevity, The Beatles and Business

IMAG0172

Still life with fruit, apple and The Beatles

Last week saw the 50th anniversary of the recording of The Beatles first album “Please, Please Me”.  This caused me to go out and play a version of “Blue Jay Way” from “The Magical Mystery Tour” as a rather unusual contribution to a 50th anniversary night on the Fab Four.  It also set me thinking about the enduring legacy of The Beatles music as compared with the long tail of one hit wonders that typify the music business.  Given that businesses rarely last 50 days let alone 50 years, it also made me think about some comparisons with businesses that have longevity.  Thankfully, my own business has lasted 18 years.

Perhaps one single fact that we learn in business from the example of The Beatles is that managers (and people in general) are rather bad at foresight.  After recording fifteen tracks for Decca records, the group were told that “guitar groups are on their way out” and “the Beatles have no future in show business.” Decca instead chose a group called the Tremoloes, who were local and would not cost as much money.  In business, Sony missed the digital revolution probably because they had a record company.  The question for the smart leader is:

“What long range future trends are we about to miss, because of our investment in the present and the past?”

Beatlenomics – “Give me money, that’s what I want”

The Beatles flexed musical styles within the context of pop music and broke many boundaries of what could be considered to be pop music at the time.  We can hear their influence in ELO, some of Prince’s orchestrated work, Oasis, Kurt Cobain, Siouxsie and The Banshees, Paul Weller, Blur and so on.  Perhaps this has ultimately helped them maintain longevity, as others have built their music on the ‘safe scaffolding’ of what they did.  It probably also helped that they stopped making records before sliding inexorably down the other side of their ‘innovation S curve’.

The challenge to modern businesses, leaders and entrepreneurs is to change what you are doing even when there is apparently no need to do so, at the top of your ‘S Curve’.  The question for the smart leader is:

“Where are you on your S Curve?”

The S Curve and Reinvention

The S Curve and Reinvention

What other business lessons can we learn from The Beatles?  Post your thoughts here.

To learn more about The Beatles and Creativity in Business, try my new online learning programme “The Music of Business”.  Claim a 50% discount voucher (7+ hours of top quality learning for just $65 instead of $125) HERE.  Read all about it here:

To read “The Music of Business”, get in touch with me for your signed copy, delivered worldwide via The Music of Business.

We leave with the title of this blog and a video I made for the online programme on the creativity contribution from The Beatles:

If music be the food of business, read on..

It may be a tad self-indulgent, but I’m extremely excited as today is the launch day for “The Music of Business”.   This has spawned a special post to celebrate the day.  I’ve gathered together some music videos from some of the artists who feature in the book.  The Music of Business is on special offer TODAY.  Please can you buy copies and ask your contacts or colleagues  to do the same.  I am keen to find out just how far we can take this independent production into the Amazon charts against the mammoth resources of the big brands:

BUY on AMAZON.CO.UK

BUY on AMAZON.COM

BUY a KINDLE version

To reward you for this, you will be able to pick up a free copy of our iPhone app in the coming weeks – daily tips on business and personal development fused with music, developed in partnership with Jason Bell of Datasentiment.

Footnote : The book reached number 10 in books on Amazon thanks to your efforts! 🙂

OUT Today – Click on the picture to order copies

So, here we go with some great music from the featured artists:

I spent many an hour on top of the stairs at the age of 15, trying to play Ritchie Blackmore’s licks

The Kaiser Chiefs are pioneering new business models

A surprisingly sublime piece from Britney Spears

The genius of Bill Nelson, performing one of his instrumental pieces at his Legends concert for ITV

David Bowie’s magnificent reflective piece “where are we now”

Gaga’s anthem about her identity shows her to be more than a passing fad

One of our corporate events at Pfizer on career management with two hit wonder and micro star John Otway

Madonna, causing a commotion as usual, this time with religion

Out and out Rock’n’Roll parody from Spinal Tap