New Year’s Reflections – Princes, Princesses and Starmen

Part I – 2016 Reflections

I hate the passage of time, as I believe that every moment should count, but I’m willing to make an exception in the case of 2016, which took so many beautiful and creative talents from us. As if it could not get any worse, we lost George Michael on Christmas day (My wife and I were reflecting that I gave my son George Michael as middle names today). This followed the tragic losses of Prince, Bowie, Carrie Fisher and so many more people during the year. 2016 has been such a crap year in so many ways. I recorded my thoughts about 2016 overall in an Advent Blog for Kate Griffiths-Lambeth, so there is no need to repeat them here. Suffice to say, I have been blessed to interview Prince family members such as Ida Nielsen, Marcus Anderson, Sheila E and George Clinton in 2016 and before. In 2017 I am planning a Worldwide Prince Photographic Exhibition with Maverick Productions, currently touring The Rolling Stones “Exhibitionism” as another tribute to the genius of Prince.

Ida

Prince with Ida Nielsen – Musical Genius x 2

But all things must pass and I’m marking the end of 2016 by giving a LIVE performance of Purple Rain at Battersea Arts Centre from 12 midnight – 2 am, after a two hour Vinyl Prince DJ set – the story of how this came about is a great example of the power of networking. I met DJ Nick, driving a van on a busy street in the City of London. Nick called out to me from then van, recognising my Prince Symbol T-Shirt. After a brief exchange, I left a card and ran, since I was in danger of being run over by angry drivers as I stood in the middle of the road!! To my surprise, Nick e-mailed me to explain his evening job as a DJ and now we are collaborating on this venture. I’m hopeful it may lead to other things in my day job at The Academy of Rock delivering events around the world.

Prince on improvisation

Our Tribute Song 4 Prince may be found at http://www.academy-of-rock.bandcamp.com/

Battersea Arts Centre - Orpheus

Battersea Arts Centre – Orpheus

Battersea Arts Centre is also a fascinating venue. Partly destroyed by fire in 2015, the centre showcases some of the most amazing creative talents. It’s very much in the mould of my work on improvisation, by operating a “scratch” methodology as part of its “ladder of development” for new work. Performances are shown at various stages of development to an outside audience, whose input and criticism guides the further evolution of the work. Scratch has been adopted as far afield as Sydney and New York and Battersea Arts Centre has successfully sparked new approaches to creativity across the globe.

Paper Cinema's Odyssey at Battersea Arts Centre

Paper Cinema’s Odyssey at Battersea Arts Centre

What then does 2017 hold in store for us? I’m going to leave that part of this blog until Part II. For now, here’s the end piece of a performance I did in Italy to honour Prince, at an impromptu aftershow for 300 people after a keynote on improvisation in business. Admittedly, nothing compares with the real thing but I did my best …

Part II – Towards 2017

I have two global hopes for 2017 – Firstly, that our obsession with war will diminish. Aleppo stands as yet another monument to humanity’s inhumanity. Secondly that we will turn back from “mob rule” as characterised by the election of Donald Trump and our own Government’s Brexit. A sub-goal for me in terms of contribution to society is the SIX B’s :

“Break Brexit Before Brexit Breaks Britain”

In business terms, my plans for 2017 include:

  1. A new book for Routledge, focusing on how we will respond to a society where intelligence are the main ingredients of personal and business success.  Read more about it at Brain Based Enterprises.
  2. I’m hoping to deliver consultancy assignments in Greece, Italy, the USA and make a return to Mauritius.
  3. And the Prince Photography Exhibition will be a major legacy project, to honour his memory. One of the images from the current Exhibitionism project is shown below:
Get off of my cloud - not a reference to computing storage ...

Get off of my cloud – not a reference to computing storage …

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Peter Cook leads Human Dynamics and The Academy of Rock. Author of 7 1/2 books on Leadership, Innovation and Creativity. Find his current books on Amazon which include cameo articles and insights from Prince and other music giants.

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Do they know it’s Brexit?

11-brexitreactionsAllegedly it’s Christmas and I nearly died laughing at a list of “Brexit Christmas songs” from an un-named source.  He did it as a bit of a joke but got so much grief from some Brexiteers with no sense of humour, so I will not name him here.  I have developed his list into a top 30 all-time Brexit songs. Find my more serious reflections on 2016 and Brexit at “Hatful of Hollow” … anyway, let the chart roll …

  1. Do they know it’s Brexit? – Boris Johnson and the Bandwagon
  2. With or without EU – EU2
  3. Like a prayer (Brexit Means Brexit) – Madonna feat. Mother Theresa (May)
  4. I believe in a thing called Gove – The Darkness feat. Ian Duncan Smith
  5. Road to nowhere – The Talking Heads (Davis, Fox, Johnson, Farage)
  6. Get over it (Brexit mix) – The Eagles
  7. A hard rain’s gonna fall – Bryan Ferry
  8. The immigrant song (we must control our borders) – Led Zeppelin
  9. Freedom (of movement) – Wham!
  10. Poker Face (Brexit Negotiation Dancefloor Remix) – Lady Gaga feat. Mrs Mayhem
  11. Stand and deliver (your passport or your life) – Adam and The Ants
  12. What a waste – Ian Duncan Smith
  13. Last Christmas (you can afford) – Wham!
  14. Would I lie to you? Well, YES, repeatedly – Nigel Farage and The EUrhythmics
  15. (Stuck) In a big country – Nicola Sturgeon
  16. I fought the law and the law won – The Clash feat. Theresa May
  17. Boris the (back) slider – The Who
  18. Nothing compares 2 EU – Sinead O’Connor
  19. Heaven knows I’m miserable now – The Smiths
  20. Highway to Brexit Hell – AC / DC
  21. Mary’s Boy Child (is being deported) – Boney M
  22. You say Brexit, I say Bankrupt, let’s call the whole thing off – Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers
  23. Maggie Mayhem – Rod Stewart
  24. I kissed a European and I liked it – Katy Perry
  25. Keep on Running, Keep on hiding (the truth) – The David Davis Group
  26. I started something I couldn’t finish – The (Ian Duncan) Smiths
  27. The (27) winners take it all – Abba
  28. Anarchy in the EU K – The Sex Pistols
  29. There is power in a (European) Union – Billy Bragg
  30. All by myself – Eric Carmen

And one more bonus track bubbling under by The Beach Buoys

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Get the whole album for just €7.99 or £27 276.77 due to currency exchange rate movements …

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… and finally … since Theresa May claimed recently that she was being “instructed by God to implement Brexit” I wrote a prayer for Brexit …

lords-brexit-prayer

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Peter Cook leads Human Dynamics and The Academy of Rock. Author of 7 1/2 books on Leadership, Innovation and Creativity. Find his current books on Amazon

New Year Revolutions

During 2015 I was very lucky to sample some glimpses of what the future holds in healthcare, the environment and music. In this article I’m looking at some snapshots of ingenious innovations in these areas to encourage other entrepreneurs to get busy on their own new year revolutions.

Digital Health

Up till recently technology was not reliable and therefore difficult to use in situations where reliability is key such as healthcare. This has now changed and technology is on the cusp of being a health game changer. I witnessed some of the amazing innovations in healthcare, when I was invited to attend and present by Roberto Ascione, CEO of Healthware International at the Frontiers of Interaction conference in Milan just recently. Here’s three:

Tinnitracks helps manage tinnitus without the use of a pill but rather your music library, cancelling the frequencies responsible for the symptom. This enables us to use our smartphones as a therapeutic device, using our own preferred music to help reduce the hyperactivity of affected nerve cells and this ease the effects of tinnitus.

If a picture is worth a thousand words how is a video worth? Starting from this and from the knowledge that health videos are by far the most desired and effective way we learn about our own health Videum pioneers the potential of making validated health videos available to all in any language. For the first time, people can learn easily about health from high quality video enriched with additional content.

The diabetes management app OneDrop uses timelines, geolocalization, badges and social media to help people to stay within their target glucose level range. OneDrop was devised by a diabetes sufferer who felt things could be a lot better. The free app looks like a visual diary and allows people to simply record their glucose levels by saving them where and when they took the measure and maybe even link them to the photo of their meal. This helps people manage their diabetes better.

Recycling London

Imagine being able to cycle from South East London to West London on your bicycle without fear of being run over? Imagine being able to do that on the River Thames? This is the concept being pioneered by the Thames Deckway project, which aims to construct a dedicated cycle path along the Thames. I was privileged to attend a briefing on the project from a young entrepreneur who has arranged a crowdfunding project to gain momentum to advance the idea. In my opinion the project is viable, novel and would contribute massively to make London a greener, safer city for cyclists, motorists and the general public. If we are serious about the environment we must get busy on pedal power.

Networking and horizontal collaboration

Enterprises are increasingly finding that innovation springs from collaboration, often from networks that they don’t “own”, i.e. through partnership with external agents, customers, even competitors in some circumstances. In this context I am delighted to have been personally invited to the Open For Business global network, the brainchild of Ted Coiné. This global network of speakers, writers and influencers are very much open for business in 2016. Ted explains the concept:

Open For Business in 2016

Open For Business in 2016

I am very lucky to have a place in this network at Keynotes, adding to the global networks I share with Nadine Hack and Virgin.com. At last, the world is your oyster …

New Year Revolutions

  • In common with Professor Charles Handy, I predict that we are about to realise the power of networks, where small networks can join together to create massive changes in the world for good.
  • We are already seeing how small networks can exert big influence in healthcare and the environment. Entrepreneurs can, for the first time, exert major influence with good products and the ability to network them effectively.
  • Consequently we will have to embrace all the diversity that this opportunity presents, beginning to understand our relative unimportance in a complex and wired world.

Improvising into 2016

Improvisation and adaptiveness

My background as a scientist instilled curiosity and the understanding that most of life is a series of experiments. It has been very good for my life as a musician and even better now as a business owner in an age of disruptive change. In a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) business environment, life in a business requires perpetual change and experimentation to find new focal points. This is a subtle but important difference than a “random walk” which can leads to fad surfing and a lack of consolidation of your value. Improvisation and adaptation have been invaluable skillsets, through one of the deepest recessions for many decades. In the last year or so, some of the results are beginning to show from what I did when there was not much to do in terms of paid activity during those times.

Joining Dots

People tell me that much of my longevity as a business comes down to joining the dots between people, passions and purposes. After winning a prize from Sir Richard Branson for my work on leadership last year, this has flourished, through some deliberation and a bit of luck, into writing for Virgin, gaining an interview with Richard for my new book with Bloomsbury and, more recently running events, which blend business excellence with music in Branson’s Virgin Money Lounges, giving me the good fortune to work alongside Class A rock stars and discover their insights into business, life and the universe. I have also forged a partnership with the awesome Ted Coiné (awesome is not a word that I am drawn to as a sober Brit), but Ted does deserve this tag with his exclusive network Open for Business, which brings together 50 thought leaders around the globe as co-collaborators.

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Restarting the engines

This year has finally been one when a number of businesses have started again to use the services of external people after many years of simply treading water whilst people halted projects or suspended the use of outside people to contain costs. We’ve been fortunate to deliver a range of projects from business reviews, facilitated strategy summits to leadership and innovation conferences for companies as diverse as FujiFilm, MSD, University College London, Bentley and Roche in the UK, Ireland, Italy, Greece, Denmark, Germany and Poland. I was also surprised to receive requests for consultancy projects from The Welsh Assembly, Renault-Nissan and Alstom Transport during the year.

Private joys

I believe that we work best when we do what we love. In my case that means occasionally doing things that my colleagues tell me are dream jobs. Amongst the private joys I’ve had in 2015, I’d mention these:

1. Taking BBC Business correspondent Robert Peston to a P-Funk concert with George Clinton and subsequently writing him a song for his departure from the BBC in support of Cancer Research UK. Check “Pestonomics” out here:

2. Interviewing John Mayall, the Godfather of the Blues, Prince’s sax player, Marcus Anderson and Prince’s first lady, Sheila E, about flow, improvisation, music and a range of other topics. I was delighted to find that Sheila had previously seen my book “Sex, Leadership and Rock’n’Roll” – just an incredible result from delivering a copy of the book to Prince some 8 years ago and proof positive of the value of networking. Check Sheila’s interview out here:

3. Performing on stage at London’s Borderline with Bernie Tormé, Ozzy Osbourne and Ian Gillan’s guitarist. Bernie was extremely kind in crediting me for having contributed to the reinvention of his career alongside Arthur Brown and Ginger Wildheart, a great honour and a privilege for someone who takes no prisoners. Here’s the 3 minute rehearsal of his song “Party’s Over”:

4. A great joy was recording four songs as a tribute to my good friend Bill Nelson, who has inspired the likes of Kate Bush, David Bowie, Brian Eno, Brian May at al. Bill has been a constant source of inspiration and wisdom for over 40 years of my life and remains to this day a permanent flame when the lights go out from time to time. Check out the Be-Bop Deluxe song “Crying to the Sky”, which was itself an homage to Jimi Hendrix. Also one of my earliest musical influences from Bill’s band Be-Bop Deluxe “Adventures in a Yorkshire Landscape”, written about Bill’s home area. Recording these songs was not an idle musical adventure. Through my advert for musicians, the project introduced me to Robert Craven, Virgin author and business speaker, also a Bill Nelson nut. I had already known of Robert through his work at The Director’s Centre but we had not met. To misquote Be-Bop Deluxe, the meeting was “Made In Heaven” and Robert and I are planning some collaborations for 2016.

5. I was fortunate to have played a small part in helping Patti Russo reinvent her career in the PME (Post Meatloaf Era). I enjoyed her performances with Spike Edney and the SAS band immensely but the high point was seeing her perform solo at The Opera House at Buxton where she gave a spine tingling performance of her song “One Door Opens”.

Public disappointments

The VUCA environment of the last few years have seen more window shoppers than usual and turbulence has just more or less cancelled much of my work for 2016, due to a merger at Pfizer-Allergan, an internal reorganisation and a persistent timewaster, who shall go un-named at the moment, since I am presently trying to mediate over the matter. No matter how old I get, I have not yet invented a foolproof way to spot fools in advance of them fooling me into giving my time for free. Hey ho, I guess that the alternative is to develop greater resilience!

My biggest mistake in 2015 was when I was approached by a chap called Mike Waterton, who rolled up in a Bentley seeking advice on how to transform his career from the boss of a recruitment agency into a noted author and speaker. I saw no reason to doubt his credentials (My wife tells me I trust everyone!) A while later, he told me he was unable to pay for the services I had provided as his business had gone into liquidation. Later on, he was accused in a local newspaper of pimping out his 25 year old girlfriend at a hotel in Kent! I generally consider myself to be a good judge of character, but I guess you never can tell … ! The FBI (Foolish Businessman Indicator) would have come in handy! It’s the first bad debt I have had in 21 years of business and I cannot understand how I did not spot the alarm bells earlier. It turns out that Mike is the victim of the seductive argument that you can have everything you want in life, as suggested in the book “The Secret” and beautifully parodied in “Family Guy” when Brian the dog decides to turn himself into a personal development guru and writes a book called “Wish It, Want It, Do It“:

FG

Click on the picture to see an excerpt of this brilliant piece of satire on The Law of Attraction

As a result of becoming indoctrinated by “The Secret” Mike bought the Bentley without realising that he would bankrupt his business in the process. His wife then left him after he acquired a young girl that appeared to come with the car. Lots of other people lost their jobs and earnings as a result of his self-obsessed strategy, informed by one of his mantras – “Think only of Yourself”, which is morally bankrupt and which bankrupted him and others who his life connected with. It’s not what I advised him to do and I’m disappointed that (a) he was economical with the truth about his situation and (b) that I was not able to persuade him to take a different course of action. I’d cautioned him about his strategy, suggesting that he built on his strengths rather than attempting to build a business on someone else’s brand, where he had no authority platform to operate from. Unfortunately, my advice turned out to be correct, but he also took advice from his girlfriend, who encouraged him to reach for the stars. A clear case of what my Mancunian wife calls “Fur Coat, No Knickers”.

Clearly I had little to offer in terms of professional coaching when matched against sex ... one of life's professional disappointments

Clearly I had little to offer in terms of professional coaching when matched against sex … one of life’s professional disappointments

Hopes and fears

“I made it through the wilderness, yeah I made it through” – Madonna

Having come through the recession over 8 years, I come out of it having refined what I do, branded it, become much better networked and with a range of artefacts to show for my efforts, the most precious one of which is a major new book called “Leading Innovation, Creativity and Enterprise” for Bloomsbury which I’m very excited about.

Of course, I am 8 years older into the bargain and this occasionally worries me as young things can see such people as irrelevant in a workplace that values apps over application and wisdom. To survive in business in an adaptive environment requires improvisation, curiosity and the willingness to learn new skills without becoming distracted by every shiny new thing that passes you by. As an improvising musician scientist and business owner I feel up for the challenge …

Wishing you a happy and prosperous 2016.

Peter