Oh Bondage Up Yours … Punk Rock CEO’s

I had my attention drawn to an article about Tim Eades, a “Punk Rock CEO” in Los Angeles recently – see Tim’s article at Punk Rock Leadership.  Tim started life as a punk in London and more recently took up the role of CEO at vArmour, an LA based security firm. There are some resonances in Tim’s article with my own writings in Punk Rock People Management and it’s even feasible that I may have met Tim, since he seemed to follow punk bands like The Damned. Here’s some parallels we have noted between punk rock and business leadership done as a series of pithy quotes from the artists themselves:

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Come along to our launch party tomorrow June 09 in Kent, featuring The Godfather of Punk, Richard Strange. Richard led proto-punk band The Doctors of Madness and has appeared in Batman, Harry Potter and Robin Hood alongside performances with Tom Waits, Peter Capaldi, Spandau Ballet et al. It will be a great night. Get your tickets at Punk Rock.

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50 Shades of Leadership

A while back, I designed a seminar called “50 Shades of Leadership” for some HR and CIPD people. Before anyone drifts off into the realms of fantasy, the event was about leadership style and not Business Dilemmas, Strategy and Management aka BDSM !! I gather there has been some recent hullabaloo about a film with a similar title to my post so I thought I might as well add to the general level of distraction to the serious business of work at the weekend. But, enough of this frivolity and let’s get it on with some Leadership thinking:

It may be trendy to think that leadership is all about empowerment, but this is just one of the seven styles proposed by Tannenbaum and Schmidt in their Leadership Continuum, ranging from autocratic to empowered leadership. What can we learn from Tannenbaum and Schmidt’s model?

7 Shades of Leadership

1. Leaders need ideally to be adept at using all the styles on the continuum.

2. If they have a deficit in some areas, the next best thing is to hire someone who can deliver the required approach. Better than trying to “fake it”.

3. There are occasions where a “tell” style is appropriate, even if it is not “trendy” in an era where the expectation is to operate towards the right hand side of the continuum. Here’s Tannenbaum and Schmidt’s model as a reminder of the options you have as a leader in any situation.

Tannenbaum and Schmidt's model of Leadership style

Tannenbaum and Schmidt’s model of Leadership style

4. There are other occasions when “empowerment” is either ineffective or downright dangerous. Empowering staff who either don’t know what to do or have no experience of improvisation does not always work when the stakes are high. Paradoxically, empowerment requires strong leadership in terms of creating a shared direction of travel.

5. If you find it hard not to interfere when trying to empower staff, just make sure you are not physically around! Book yourself a holiday or do anything to make it physically difficult to interfere. That does not mean you should not check in occasionally to see how things are going and offer encouragement and coaching if required.

6. If you are trying to use high involvement strategies, remember some people are happy to engage direct, but others may prefer to use remote “nominal” communication mechanisms such as anonymous inputs. Ensure that you enable both means of making suggestions.

7. Do not mix the styles up. For example do not abdicate when you mean to tell people something. Inauthenticity is a killer of leadership credibility.

Just remember that Leadership comes in 50 varieties – well there’s actually only 7 in the model! Use the style that best-fits the situation rather than what’s trendy.

Come along to our Punk Rock Business Event on June 09 in the South East. All kinds of decadent thoughts about leadership, art, business and punk rock will be discussed, but without the use of whips, clips and chains …

Come to our event on disruptive leadership - June 09 - £10 - click on the picture to get yours now - Picture by Lindsay Wakelin Photography

Come to our event on disruptive leadership – June 09 – £10 click on the picture to get yours now – Picture by Lindsay Wakelin Photography

50 Shades of HR – Click to hook up with The Cultured Llama

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.

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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.

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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.

Death Eaters

June 9th AOR

I have the extraordinary pleasure of bringing Richard Strange to Kent on Tuesday June 9th to present an evening of film, music and spoken word at the Sun Pier Arts Centre.  Tickets available at Death Eaters. Here is the former “Doctor of Madness” with “Doctor Who” aka Peter Capaldi and Sarah Jane Morris of The Communards fame and much more. And a rare clip of The Doctors of Madness performing.

Richard Strange, Death Eater, Writer, Musician and Kevin Costner's Executioner

Richard Strange, Death Eater, Writer, Musician and Kevin Costner’s Executioner

My personal memories of Richard’s wonderful work include regularly missing the last train home and having to sleep on the stairs of Charing Cross Station after Doctors of Madness gigs at The Marquee. At one gig I was hosed down with a fire extinguisher by Captain Sensible of The Damned. An amazing solo gig at Hastings Caves and bizarre evenings at Richard’s Avant Garde Club Cabaret Futura, with Soft Cell, Keith Allen, Blancmange, all guarded by an 11 foot long python which coiled itself at the door to the club.

The Marquee in Wardour Street, breeding ground for the underground

The Marquee in Wardour Street, breeding ground for the underground

What Do I Get?

For just £10 you will be getting:

  • A mildly hilarious set of observations on the parallels between punk rock and business, punctuated by some punk rock riffs and storytelling
  • A rare performance of some of my solo material set in the “retro-futuristic punk ambient” style
  • An interview with Richard Strange plus Q&A opportunities
  • Richard Strange’s one man show, which includes film, music and spoken word
  • A possible appearance by Sarah Jane Morris, solo artist and performer with The Communards
  • An opportunity to meet a Death Eater

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Peter Cook launches “Punk Rock People Management” and a brand new version of “The Music of Business” at the event with Richard Strange.   Get your ticket for Punk Rock Biz.

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The King is Dead – BB King RIP 1925 – 2015

I woke to the great sadness at the news that BB King died last night. For me as a guitarist his style of playing was instantly recognisable, built around purity and simplicity of the blues that goes straight to the heart. BB King would sometimes play an entire solo from more or less one note, using his unique ability to express himself with the minimalism that comes from genius, plus a sweet tone that became his trademark. This is a man playing from his heart, uncluttered, with perfect phrasing, pitch and poise and not a “speed king”. He also connected with his audiences through his voice, his humour and his authenticity.

I own a Gibson 335 partly as a result of BB King’s playing (King played a 355, but the 335 was the best I could do money wise at the time). There is nothing more to say except to share some of the great man’s work:

The Thrill is Gone – BB King 1925 – 2015

BB King

From Soft Machine to Nigel Kennedy – An interview with John Etheridge

John Etheridge with Stefane Grapelli

John Etheridge with Stefane Grappelli

I met the great John Etheridge recently, a virtuoso guitarist whose career includes performances with Stephane Grappelli, psychedelic rockers Soft Machine, Nigel Kennedy, John Williams, Hawkwind, Andy Summers and many more. Firstly a sample of his work with Stephane Grappelli and then what I learned from him:

On variation and originality

John pointed out that a great deal of the original playing styles that have emerged from the greats emanated from people who were not trained. In other words, the idiosyncrasies that made them great were due to not being taught to play properly in the first place!! Many young musicians have access to tremendous resources today, but it tends to turn out “template players”. There’s nothing wrong with this, but the aural equivalent of “painting by numbers” may not turn out people like Jeff Beck and Jimi Hendrix. For me there is a massive parallel in the world of business where standardisation of work practices reduces the possibility of creativity and innovation.

On improvisation and innovation

Contrary to popular belief, John Etheridge comes from the school of thinking that says that improvisation and innovation come from immersion in practice, or what is sometimes called the 10 000 hours effect. My original background was in Scientific Research and Development where we understood the importance of laying down significant hours of experimentation (practice) in order to gain new insights and be the best in our field. It is a habit that seems to be in decline in all but the very best companies. Here’s out interview with joined made in conjunction with ME1 TV:

On naivety versus training

Naivety and training are not opposites for Etheridge. Whilst he is a master of music, he allows time and space to behave as if he has never played an instrument before. Playfulness, both the mental and practical variety are extremely important for creativity and innovation in business. In John’s case, as well as playing his virtuoso jazz in his own performance, he joined Space Rockers Hawkwind for their show on the same night, saying that he just loves the raw energy and chaos of their music. Hardly a challenge for him musically, but giving him space to experiment within the confines of raw musical structures.

Al Fresco Jazz - on the pavement at Chalk Farm - how lucky are the residents - Black and White Photography by Christina Jansen Photography

Al Fresco Jazz – on the pavement at Chalk Farm – how lucky are the residents – Black and White Photography by Christina Jansen Photography

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Peter Cook leads Human Dynamics, offering better Organisation Development, Training and Coaching. He offers keynotes and longer masterclasses that blend World Class Leadership Thinking with parallel lessons from music via The Academy of Rock. 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.

Death Cheaters – Wilko Johnson

Here’s the interview we did for ME1 TV with the legend that is Wilko Johnson. Pure delight:

Underwater, Underground, Underrated

John Peter Wilkinson was born on Canvey Island in 1947, more or less opposite me, separated by the river Thames. Canvey Island is below sea level, a fact which Wilko discovered in 1953 when the island flooded. Wilko was just 6 years old when Canvey was “twinned” with Muddy Waters and likes to think that it informed his life as a submariner subsequently.

A life on the ocean wave - The Canvey Island flood of 1953

A life on the ocean wave – The Canvey Island flood of 1953

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As the crow flies, Canvey Island is 10 miles from my home in Kent

Hippies, Teachers and Pirates 

Wilko’s early days were spent travelling in Goa, Afghanistan and Nepal on the late 1960’s / early 1970’s hippy trail. On his return his mum got him a job as an English teacher at a local school, a job which lasted a year before his interests took him elsewhere. He had bought a Fender Telecaster guitar for £90 in 1965 having been hugely influenced by the simultaneous rhythm and lead guitar style of Mick Green from Johnny Kidd and The Pirates, which he claims is at the root of his own unique style or “USP” as we say in business.

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Sprung into action

Wilko still uses his trademark Vox red curly guitar leads which propel him back and forth across the stage like some kind of whirling dervish on a spring. Just take a look at this great film with Roger Daltrey to see Mr Johnson spring loaded and dangerous.

Death Eaters

Wilko has carved out something of a niche for himself, in common with my friend Richard Strange. In Wilko’s case, he found his centre as a mute executioner in Game of Thrones. Richard’s niche seems to involve anything where he wears a hood, having been Kevin Costner’s executioner and ‘ate’ Harry Potter as a death eater!  Wilko comments on his acting career from Oil City Confidential to Ser Ilyn Payne:

“They wanted somebody really sinister who went around looking daggers at people before killing them. That made it easy. Looking daggers at people is what I do all the time, it’s like second nature to me”

Death Eaters - Wilko Johnson in Game of Thrones and Richard Strange in Harry Potter

Death Eaters – Wilko Johnson in Game of Thrones and Richard Strange in Harry Potter

Death Cheaters – Down to the Doctors

In 2013, Wilko was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer and given just 9 months to live. He refused to take any treatment for his condition and embarked on a final tour. About a year later one of his fans who was also a cancer specialist heard a radio interview and thought that Wilko should indeed have been dead by this time. He got in touch with Wilko, suggesting that he may have a more treatable form of the cancer. Wilko agreed to undergo an operation with an uncertain outcome to remove the tumour which by then weighed 3 kilos and declared himself cancer free in October 2014. As a result Wilko is somewhat shell shocked by the news that he is not about to die and having to reconsider what he now does next. I recall a similar situation with a school friend who has also cheated death. One thing is sure – Wilko will be making some more music and hopefully putting in some appearances at The Railway Hotel in Southend where he is immortalised on the sign.

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Sign O’ The Times – The Sign of The Railway Hotel in Southend where Wilko occasionally performs.

Wilko Johnson and Roger Daltrey's recent album - click to view on Amazon

Wilko Johnson and Roger Daltrey’s recent album – click to buy on Amazon

I had the great privilege of performing with Wilko Johnson and Norman Watt Roy down in Kent some years ago. Also the more dubious honour of escorting him through French customs with John Otway, dressed as a nurse! My copy of “Stupidity” plays on the turntable as I write this. Long live Wilko Johnson!

He does it right - Wilko shares his secrets on my battered and slightly out of tune Hofner Futurama - my first guitar - £10 from the insurance man

He does it right – Wilko shares his secrets on my battered and slightly out of tune Hofner Futurama – my first guitar – £10 from the insurance man

“You take John Otway though customs and I’ll handle Wilko – after all I’m a nurse”

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Peter Cook offers keynotes and longer masterclasses that blend World Class Leadership Thinking with parallel lessons from music via The Academy of Rock  Come along to our next showcase event with Harry Potter’s “Death Eater”, Mr Richard Strange on Tuesday June 9th in Kent – Tickets are selling fast at Punk Rock Biz so pick yours up now