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 online Leadership programme for FREE via The Music of Business Online.

Box Set 7

Maybe I’m A Maze(d)

Maybe I'm A Maze(d)

Maybe I’m A Maze(d)

We’ve just completed the work surrounding the design and delivery of a Sales Conference for a major company in Ireland.  We had a wonderful time designing and delivering the conference and hope to return later in the year for another piece of work.

Our theme at the conference was navigating constraints to sales in a highly constrained business environment.  We have written on the subject of constraints and creativity before. I’ve had been hired to work through an ambitious sales plan for 2014 – 2015 and, after some initial diagnostic work, we came up with the idea of mazes, puzzles and games as a design principle for the event, since the client’s sales environment is itself complex, full of quicker or slower routes to sales and there are some ‘dead ends’, which are like a maze:

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Navigating the sales maze

Design Thinking

In the event, we devised a number of ‘kinaesthetic puzzles’ to get people engaged and prepared for the business challenges.  The main experiences consisted of the design and testing of some puzzles / games / mazes made by participants, intended to teach other teams about particular constraints in a very powerful way and offer a forum for collective creative thinking and learning. I’m pleased to say that our unique brand of ‘serious fun’ was well received:

The feedback from all of our team has been fantastic with many quotes of ‘the best conference ever’ ringing down the phone lines for  the days following

Intelligent fun - using serious games to unlock complex business issues

Intelligent fun – using serious games to unlock complex business issues – This particular design was based on Snakes and Ladders

We also provided a toolkit of creativity strategies to supplement the team’s natural capabilities in this area.  One such skill is the concept of ‘combination’ as a spur to creating products and services that offer sustainable and hard to copy advantages.  This was introduced via a live seminar on the subject using rock music.  Here’s a short extract from the “Riffs and Myths of Creativity” seminar:

Business lessons

  • As Einstein said “You can’t solve a problem with the same level of thinking that created it”. Serious problems can sometimes be made worse by applying serious thinking to them.
  • By changing the frame of reference, sometimes you change the ease in which a problem can be tackled. This can be done in a variety of ways.
  • Good design thinking takes the client’s issue / problem / opportunity and then designs an intervention which models the topic, allowing space for new thinking, rather than ‘starting with the intervention and fitting the client’s topic to it. It’s a best-fit rather than a template approach to dealing with complex topics.
  • Even the most reserved people can be encouraged to play if it is serious play rather than just playfulness for it’s own sake. That said, this often works best if assisted by skilled and experienced facilitators.

Finally, here’s the song which inspired the title of this blog and a piece from the Irish legendary blues master Rory Gallagher for no particular reason other than it’s great:

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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 online Leadership programme for FREE via The Music of Business Online.

Box Set 7

Prince + 3rd Eye Girl – 1+1+1 = 7

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In 2007, I read somewhere that Prince said he would never return to UK after his 21 nights at the O2 Arena and Indigo2.  This converted me from a great admirer to an almost manic obsessive in my attempts to take in some last views of this amazing talent.  Needless to say this was a bit like the “last tour” by The Who and he has returned to the UK since.  It’s a well tried marketing trick and I fell for it, in the words of The Who’s song “Won’t get fooled again”, I did.  But I never thought I would get to see a Prince concert in such as small venue as the Shepherd’s Bush Empire, last Sunday 9th February, having met the amazing George Clinton the night before.  I’ve just returned from another 7 hour queuing marathon at Camden’s Koko, an amazing show, featuring Lianne De Havas and Prince continues to play into the night as I revise this post.

I should Koko ...

I should Koko …

For those who are not so aware of the continuous twists and turns of Prince’s career, he has stripped down his big funky band with horns and keyboards and now has a tight all female four-piece rock band called 3rdeyegirl.  Prince has always been unusual in the music business, in so far that he runs a meritocracy and truly values diversity within his band lineups.  You can read my previous posts on Prince on this blog.

Prince-3rdEyeGirl

I had some trepidation as I love Prince’s extended jazz funk jams but I need not have worried. This band is hot, hot, hot. Check this 3rdeyegirl version of “I like it there” from the actual night itself – Move over Jimi Hendrix, Prince is in town:

PR, Marketing and Social Media Lessons from Prince

The build up to the first few gigs has some important marketing and PR lessons for all.  Prince had gone on the record in saying that his shows would cost no more that $10 when he first arrived in the UK in February.  On the day of the Shepherd’s Bush gig an announcement was made that the price would be £70.  This produced an unusual social media phenomenon, as two guys from South East London made cardboard placards to remind Prince of his promise and wandered up and down the queue gathering interest. The #10PoundPrince hashtag quickly got picked up on Twitter and, four hours later, Prince had bowed to audience pressure to honour the £10 price.  Later on, a press release said that it had always been the intention to lower the price to £10, yet I have a ticket which boldly states £70.  Proof positive that people in the internet age will find ways to hold the mirror up to remind you of your promises – in this case a cardboard mirror, accelerated by Twitter ! :-)  Here’s the two social media revolutionaries in action:

Prince and The Revolutionaries

Prince and The Revolutionaries

That said, £10 is clearly unsustainable for the smaller to medium sized venues that Prince wants to play and the number of people required to staff such events.  Since Shepherd’s Bush, Prince has not played at all this week until Friday and now three shows tonight at Koko.  I suspect one of the problems behind the scenes has been either to find venues that would accept low ticket prices or to ‘manage the fans’ expectations’ of a realistic price for an evening of this scale. Prince’s manager Kiran Sharma carefully tested the mood of the fanbase on Thursday with this tweet and reset their expectation in a single move:

Online PR and customer expectation management in action

Online PR and customer expectation management in action

The Old Bull and Shepherd’s Bush

Anyway, what was it like?  Well, at Shepherd’s Bush, we started with some completely reworked, refried and refunked versions of some classics and a great selection of new material from the forthcoming album.  In particular I really enjoyed the slowed down R&B grooves of “Let’s go crazy”, “She’s Always in my hair” and “I could never take the place of ur man” alongside the new material. I’ve often said that Prince is “Jimi Hendrix with better lighting and tuning”, but of course, like Hendrix, he is also an absorber and synthesiser of genres, from James Brown and Little Richard to Wes Montgomery and Kate Bush.  He also shares a similar Myers Briggs type with Mr Hendrix, reckoned to be somewhere in the region INFP, although there are many arguments around this. His spiritual Godfather and almost polar MBTI opposite was  up the the balcony, Mr George Clinton, who I’d met at a private function the night before.  I think this must have given Prince an extra endorphin injection.  Check out “She’s always in my hair” slowed down and souled up:

We got a piano segue of a whole string of Prince hits (well, he has got too many of them really :-), from “Diamonds and Pearls”, “How come u don’t call me any more”, “Adore” etc. and “The Beautiful Ones“, which my wife and I chose as our first wedding dance, sending shivers down my spine.  We also got an electronica work out using some of Prince’s iconic samples from songs such as “Sign O’ The Times” and an extended jam with a Prince bass solo on “Forever in my life”. The whole set list from Shepherd’s Bush is below.

39 songs on a one nite stand

39 songs on a one nite stand

3 performances on a 1 nite stand – I should Koko!

We got a slightly reduced set tonight as Prince boldly decided to perform 3 shows at 7 pm, 10 pm and 1 am!!  It looked like there were some technical issues at the start of the first show as staff ran on and off stage meticulously checking things, with gaffa tape in sight.  This meant that the first show had to be reduced in length a little.  Prince handled this very well, when people refused to go, saying “Share and share alike” – This man has emotional intelligence oozing out of every pore of his body.

The set list at Koko in Camden - 1st performance

The set list at Koko in Camden – 1st performance

In terms of lessons for anyone else in professional life, what Prince does is to blend absolute control freakery with the ability to change direction at a moment’s notice.  The band rehearse a repertoire of 300 songs giving them the flexibility to adapt and jam.  I wrote about this in the books “Sex, Leadership and Rock’n’Roll” and “The Music of Business”.  I was delighted to be able to pass a copy of “The Music of Business” for Prince with his article in it – see this extract and e-mail me for a free copy of the full article at peter@humdyn.co.uk

The 3S model - Symbols, Signs and Sex

The 3S model – Symbols, Signs and Sex

Well, what more can one say?  I first wrote this blog, having missed the Prince event in Kings Cross , yet another completely different manifestation of this multi-talented, enigmatic and sometimes frustrating artist – an acoustic evening plus Q&A session and an all-eclectic aftershow. Today I went in search of Prince for further teachings in the art of improvisation and high performance and was rewarded with ticket No 331 and another great performance which makes you feel good to be alive.  Prince and I are both 55 and, as he said tonight:

Music is Medicine

I have certainly been healed and trained in a masterclass on flexibility, creativity, authenticity, an ecology of the mind and body and much more. Prince is rumoured to be playing Ronnie Scotts Monday 17 Feb and then Manchester at the end of the week.

This is how Prince sneaks into the venue - in a box - but the symbol is a dead giveaway ...

This is how Prince sneaks into the venue – in a box – but the symbol is a dead giveaway …

Can you imagine being this close to a performer who has been compared to Mozart?

Can you imagine being this close to a performer who has been compared to Mozart?

For now, let’s end with some more 3rdeyegirl – You must see this band while they are in UK.

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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. E-mail me for a free copy of the Prince chapter – Just send PRINCE to peter@humdyn.co.uk or contact direct via +44 (0) 7725 927585. Check out our online Leadership programme for FREE via The Music of Business Online.

Never mind the usual fare on business – This is the real deal

One Nite Alone … with George Clinton and Prince

I was privileged and astonished to be invited to a private event for 35 people with George Clinton, the inventor of P-Funk, Funkadelic, Parliament, whose influence has transcended generations, musical genres, class, creed and credentials.  With influences spreading from the Red Hot Chilli Peppers to Joss Stone.  Thank you so much to Lois Acton at Urban Unlimited for the invite.

I’d caught the train up to Shoreditch House in Bethnal Green on Saturday – the first time I’d ever been to Bethnal Green, although I quoted it in my spoof hard rock song on economics Fiscal Cliff, so there was a piece of serendipity!  I was expecting a huge venue with a massive audience.  Imagine my surprise when I was standing in the foyer with 4 others and Mr C comes in and casually remarks “Prince – what a great T Shirt” whilst shaking my hand.

George Clinton - Godfather of Funk, Soul, Psychedelia

George Clinton – Godfather of Funk, Soul, Psychedelia

At the start of the session, the interviewer asked if Mr Clinton was from another planet and he reassured us that he was certain that he was not sure …  as I have said on many occasions, truly creative people are better at ambiguity tolerance than most mortal souls!

Quite a few people wanted to know what the ‘recipe for fusion’ was and it became clear that George was simply an intuitive learner who ‘felt things and followed the direction’.  Perhaps that is the lesson from mastery of an art – being able to follow where the path leads.  He said on more than one occasion that he watched what Sly Stone was doing, where Jimi Hendrix and James Brown was going musically and so on and just felt that a fusion of these genres was possible, which became the P-Funk genre, a totally unique brand of music.  Coming ‘late to the party’ was clearly an advantage in terms of surveying emergent forms of music and being able to comprehend it all through being a songwriter for major labels.  Let’s hear Mr Clinton to get in the groove:

I asked George about the value of happy accidents in fusing musical genres and he replied with a detailed story about a day in the studio when he had laid down a drum pattern but somehow the studio engineer had reversed the loop on a tape machine in the same way as Prince subsequently used backward drum tracks.  George was trying to talk with the engineer but for some reason could not be heard, so he just started singing some ‘nonsense’ words about a ‘man and a dog’, expecting the engineer to eventually reverse the tape loop and for a key to come up to.  He did not do so and he kept on singing.  Eventually he realised that he had just created “Atomic Dog”.  We have discussed the value of serendipity on The Music of Business Linkedin group – please join to learn more.  Here’s the track:

Someone else asked him what album he wished he had recorded and he said “Sargent Pepper” – a real surprise, but perhaps not when you consider the production values that Mr Clinton has applied to his songs.  Asked about these he related a story about engineers being unwilling to say they had produced his records, due to George pushing recording levels way beyond the point at which normal recording conventions allowed, sometimes just using the repeat of a sample rather than the original recording as the main groove.  The only rule being to break rules and follow your intuition when you find something cool to jam on

I saw George again at a Prince gig tonight as I write this on the train.  Needless to say the concert was better than sex.  I will write more on this soon.  Suffice to say, I have not slept that much tonight after a two and a half hour set and 40 songs at Shepherd’s Bush Empire.  Let’s hear what Prince has to say about the teacher:

Mr Clinton with Lois

Mr Clinton with Lois

George Clinton… May the funk remain with u until the dawn …  He has a new album out soon at George Clinton.

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About the Blogger:  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 online Leadership programme for FREE via The Music of Business Online.

Box Set 7

Jamming in New York City

Here’s a link to a Radio interview we did with Dr Jackie Modeste and Dr Wesley J Watkins on Trading Fours on the theme of improvisation and innovation.  Just click the picture to listen in.

Click to listen to the radio show

Click to listen to the radio show

Here’s what Dr Modeste had to say about the interview highlights via Twitter:

  • Musicians understand the value of continuous practice to master their art.  In business we are often satisfied with one day’s CPD (Continuous Professional Development) per year.
  • Disruptive innovation can come from the marketplace in a wired world, with customers setting challenges for businesses that get stuck in a rut.
  • Failure to spot disruptive innovation can be life limiting for businesses.  Witness the examples of Sony and Kodak in the interview.
  • Musicians are often great storytellers.  In business we need to get better at getting everyone to put themselves into the company’s story, rather than trying to impose our own fairy tale on staff.

Thanks to Jackie and Wes for an engaging dialogue, which was unplanned and therefore more surprising and enjoyable for that.

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About the Blogger:  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 online Leadership programme for FREE via The Music of Business Online.

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Desperately Seeking Bankers Who ROCK

Here’s a piece of recent press attention in The Evening Standard on a project I’m working on with Dr Andrew Sentance, former Monetary Policy Committee member at the Bank of England:

In the City - With Andrew Sentance

In the City – With Andrew Sentance

So, we’re looking out for City business people (Bankers, Tinkers, Tailors and so on -:) who play an instrument and would like to participate in an open mic music jam sessione.  We are also looking for a venue in the City to do this amazing event and anyone who might want to help with lighting, PA and so on.  How will this work I hear you asking?

  • We’ll supply a backline of equipment and some great musicians to support the evening
  • I will be bringing my bass playing friend John Howitt, who is a session musician who has played with Anastasia, Celine Dion and Shirley Bassey and a great drummer.  I’m sure Andrew will also bring some muso friends
  • We will work up a set list of songs that people might like to play in advance but the evening will also be open to more spontaneous contributions.  If individuals want to replace one or more of the backline members that’s fine or they can just add themselves as a soloist
  • We’re looking to do this easily in Spring to give time for a little bit of mental preparation and incubation

Any questions?  Get in touch.  For those about to rock the Bank of England, we salute you!!

In the spirit of the event, here’s one of the contenders for the performance:

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About the Blogger:  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 online Business and Music programme for FREE via The Music of Business Online.

The bookshelf

Improvisation and Innovation

Just back from Northampton having delivered a keynote on the topic of improvisation and innovation.  I’m pleased to say that there was a great deal of interest in the topic and the question many people ask me is “How do you plan to improvise?”  Indeed one can plan to improvise – in the words of Paul Simon:

“Improvisation is too important to be left to chance”

Before we get started, have a listen to a piece of music I wrote and recorded, which was conceived and created pretty much entirely through improvisation.  Initially working alone and then involving my friend and musical collaborator John Howitt, a session musician who has worked with Celine Dion, Shirley Bassey, Anastasia et al.

Somewhat strangely, improvisation relies on discipline if something is to emerge from the process.  I’ve summarised some of the principles that I apply when creating from scratch and their parallels in business:

Parallels between improvisation and innovation in music and business

Parallels between improvisation and innovation in music and business

Improvisation is not confined to music.  It operates in all other artforms, including photography.  We finish with the work of Allisdhair McNuall, improvising photographic artist at Incubation Arts and Ambient Vistas.  Allisdhair uses ambient scenery as his inspiration with natural adjustments of his camera to “make the familiar strange”.  There is no PhotoShop here.  Allisdhair says in true improvisational form “I stumbled across the technique quite by accident and it continues to develop (no pun intended) with each shot I take”.  Allisdhair also provides some subtle backdrops to the table above.

Ambient Vistas

Ambient Vistas

Distant Realms

Distant Realms

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About the Blogger:  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 online Leadership programme for FREE via The Music of Business Online.