Making better decisions that stick

Introducing the wonderful Dawna Jones from Vancouver.  Dawna is CEO of From Insight to Action, a change management consultancy which helps individuals, teams and organisations escape from tramline thinking that can become embedded into business cultures. She is author of Decision Making for Dummies and writes for The Huffington Post.


Click on the picture to view the book on Amazon

Dawna kindly interviewed me for as part of her online interview series “The Evolutionary Provocateur podcast”, hosted by Management Issues. Take a listen.

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Click the image to listen to the interview

She says of change management:

“Over a decade ago, I was facilitating an organizational change initiative which made a lurch forward only to settle back as incremental change. Instantly, I realized that business decision makers and underlying beliefs in the culture weren’t adapting fast enough to match the accelerating ecological, climate and social change. Ten years of research into the science and spirit of human performance (and complex systems) gave me greater insight into how to work with the unknown to create greater creativity and resilience in companies and leaders at every level. Brain science tells us that decisions fall into repetitive ruts unless you actively introduce diverse opinions, reflect to learn from assumptions or take other steps to see from many levels and broaden perspective.  Advanced skills to deepen personal and organizational awareness along with simple principles allow greater functionality in complexity. Providing the learning environment to deepen skills personally and collectively is a personal passion of mine.


Click on the image to move from Insight to Action

I asked Dawna for some insights into her work:

Making Better Decisions

Peter : What are the hallmarks of companies that make great decisions?

Dawna : They tap into both their intuitive intelligence and their collective intelligence. Transparency and trust are central to providing a growth oriented decision making environment where customers and employees contribute to providing the multiple feedback input required to stay alert to changing developments.

They take time out from being busy to reflect and gain perspective. Without that there is limited to no capacity for foresight – to see what’s coming ahead.

They flex their thinking to fit the situation rather than applying analytical thinking for every situation.

They are highly networked, consequently can keep pace with emerging change.

Peter : I love the idea of using their own intelligence and that of others. This triangulates a complex decision, leading to the best possible outcome rather than the lowest common denominator if done with skill. In a busy world, reflection becomes even more important if there is to be foresight.

Making decisions stick

Peter : As we know, it’s one thing making good decisions, quite another to take other people with you. How do you ensure that people follow their decisions? Why is an outsider essential?

Dawna : A decision not followed is a decision not inspired by a shared common goal. When a decision is forced from the top down, and it has a negative impact on those implementing it, it stands to reason that it won’t inspire the energy required for action. An outsider brings in an objective take on the underlying dynamics so the invisible factors, like cultural beliefs in conflict with the direction, can be identified and reviewed rather than dealing with the undertow created when you’re trying to do something different and it conflicts with what’s always been done before. Most often, this kind of conflict surfaces in behaviour and the temptation is to fix the behaviour. It’s a much deeper dynamic going on that someone not immersed in the environment can detect quickly using intuitive insight.

The importance of reflection and incubation

The importance of reflection and incubation – extract from Decision Making for Dummies – click on the picture to find the book on Amazon

Peter : The concept of undertow resonates strongly with me, reminding me of the lyrics to the song by Suzanne Vega, although clearly the song places a different meaning on the word undertow …. but do we really need an excuse to play a Suzanne Vega song!? 🙂 However, it made me think that the more leaders push, sometimes this produces an equal and opposite reaction from those being ‘pushed’. Leaders must learn to engage and develop collaboration if they want to ‘pull’ instead of ‘push’. There are only a few circumstances when push is of value such as turnarounds and crises. Even then, smart leaders understand that great decisions may come from those closest to the action. You remind me that the outsider sees things that others don’t see and much earlier, allowing an enterprise to correct its decision before it has happened.

Music and the mind

Peter : We talked a lot in the interview you kindly did about music and the mind. Share some of your thinking on the role which music can play in shaping our lives.

Dawna : To me, music is the song of the soul celebrating life in its many emotions. With respect to business, it can serve as a metaphor as you do so well in your work and it can also serve to bring calm to a stressed high pressure environment. Mark Romero’s music, for instance, has the effect of calming and bringing your body into physical coherence meaning you’re able to access your alpha (creativity) state and also gain harmony between the mind and the heart. Certain classical music is used by more enlightened education systems to help students remember their work without needing to exercise recall – That helps those of us have the ability to recall or memorise. None of this has to be set at high volume to work. Low volume works just fine. Music gives us the chance to enrich our creativity (same part of the brain) and stimulate expression.

Work with Dawna and myself on learning at the speed of sound

Work with Dawna and myself on learning at the speed of sound

Peter : I can certainly attest to the memory value of music, having used it over many years to help people excel across a range of circumstances from passing exams to locking in important thoughts into long term memory. I have never visited a country yet where people cannot more or less recite the words to Bohemian Rhapsody, now 40 years old. A pity they don’t always know so much about their company’s mission statements!! 🙂 Having just watched a Queen documentary on television last night it reminded me of attending Hyde Park to see them in 1976 – one truly amazing concert.

Contact Dawna via From Insight to Action if you are interested in making better business decisions. Dawna and I are available for joint projects into 2016 around the world, combining thoughtful Organisation Development with masterclass inputs that blend business ideas with music for maximum engagement and application.


About the Blogger

Peter Cook leads Human Dynamics and The Academy of Rock. Check out our books on Amazon which make excellent seasonal gifts. We are currently booking launch events for Leading Innovation, Creativity and Enterprise, a major new book for 2016 with Bloomsbury, featuring exclusive interviews with Sir Richard Branson and Sir James Dyson.

Books x 4

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:


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


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


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


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 or +44 (0) 7725 927585.

What makes you happy at work?

What makes you happy at work?  Money? Praise? Doing something new? Meeting people? The ability to use your expertise? Giving something to others? Fame? Feedback? …  There’s some background to the question, in the form of a summary of Fred Herzberg’s work on satisfiers and dissatisfiers, and that of the other motivational giants in the book “Sex, Leadership and Rock’n’Roll

Business mixed with music

What turns you on at work? Find out here

I was reflecting upon my own motivators the other day when a client said to me “You’ve never had a care in the world.  For you, work is play”

Whilst I accepted this casual remark in the manner in which she intended it, as a piece of praise, the person in question obviously did not know just how much I care about my work and the painstaking design activity that sits behind what I do, so that it all looks easy on the day. But, indeed she was right.  We often do our best when there is a happy marriage between our own talents and what our job requires of us. When people have asked me “what is my secret to personal motivation”, I point out that I have simply brought what I love doing into close proximity with what my customers want and need, always ensuring that their needs come before my wants.  It’s what Wham were talking about when they came up with their ‘Choose Life’ T-Shirt:

If you're gonna do it, do it right

If you’re gonna do it, do it right …

That said, there are moments in my work when I do realise just how lucky I am .  One such moment occurred the other week after I had delivered an evening keynote address in innovation for a company and we had completed some team building activities with music after dinner.  Around 10.30 pm I realised that all was well and, just for a moment, I felt I could relax  and observe the scene.  I was playing “Paranoid” by Black Sabbath with Bernie Tormé, guitarist for Ozzy Osbourne, Ian Gillan, GMT et al, and was getting paid for it.  “How lucky am I”, I thought to myself.  Better still Bernie was kind enough to complement me on my playing when I drove him home later. Proof positive that praise and authentic feedback are huge “Herzberg motivators”.

Sharing a joke with a Monster of Rock - Bernie Tormé

Sharing a joke with a Monster of Rock – Bernie Tormé

So, never mind the boll…cks and books on personal development.  If you want to “Live to Work” rather than “Work to Live”, the goal is simply to marry something you love to do with something that someone else (a) wants / needs and (b) is prepared to pay you for.  If you wish us to come and do a masterclass on the topic plus a live music experience, please get in touch.  We’ve had enquiries from a wide range of people around the world, from pharmaceuticals in the USA to HMRC and a University who wants to help the local economy make a step up through innovation and export.

To finish, we must reach out again for George Michael and Co, who said it simply with the phrase “Enjoy What You Do” in their 1980’s benefit classic ‘Wham Rap”:


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

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 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

31 1 13

OUT 31.1.13

OUT 31.1.13 Click the cover to pre-order signed copies

Music is my first love,  And it will be my last, Music of the future, Music of the past  John Miles

Thursday 31 January 2013 marks the launch date of my new book “The Music of Business” and I thought I’d give a heads up on the date in the hope that you will buy copies of the book and tell others about it, to give it an initial boost on Amazon.  The book represents the culmination of many years work, looking at the parallels between business excellence and ideas from the field of music.  There’s a healthy dose of totally new material plus major developments and expansions of ideas I have written about here and in other places.  Pre-order copies of the book here.  The book is also available to buy at AMAZON.CO.UKAMAZON.COM, and KINDLE although it will be available at a discount on 31 1 13.  Take a quick look at the Slideshare presentation.

Alongside Harvey Goldsmith’s quote, I was delighted to receive some spiffing reviews of the book:

“Original, perceptive, effective and amusing… Peter Cook’s unique take on the parallel universes of business and music never fails to stimulate, inspire and entertain”   Richard Strange, Founder, The Doctors of Madness, Actor, Writer

“An engaging and accessible look at business issues through a musical lens – no MBA required!”  – Dominic Brown – Finance Director, The Halcyon Gallery

“If you are in business and like music then The Music of Business is simply a ‘must have’. It puts across sound theories in a logical, digestible and illustrative manner, in ways that actually make sense compared with other business books” – Marc Don Francesco, Head of Group Marketing, Towergate Insurance 

Organised into four sections : Strategy; Creativity; Innovation and; Change, the book is available as a hard copy with additional material and pictures.  It will also be available as a Kindle download.  I wonder if I dare ask some favours of you on this:

  1. Please mention the book to contacts and colleagues, perhaps by sharing this blog on social media or posting a Tweet, LinkedIn, Google+1, Digg, Reddit, Stumbleupon or facebook mention.
  2. Share the Slideshare presentation widely via the link SHARE
  3. Ask people to pre-order copies via ORDER, ORDER
  4. Join the Linkedin Group “The Music of Business“.
  5. If anyone fancies doing a guest blog, interview or book review, that would be great.  E-mail me at
  6. Anything else you can think of 🙂  Just do it

Pre-order signed copies at the book webpage: The Music of Business.  To thank you for your help, I am also launching a free iPhone app – daily business tips mixed with music, which I will be happy to send you.  This has been devised in partnership with data genius and bass player supremo Jason Bell of Datasentiment.

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A date to remember – Just click to order

We leave with two songs that capture the essence of why music reaches the parts that spreadsheets do not, from John Miles and Madonna:

Ignorance is NOT Bliss

I attended a great event with John Lloyd, Producer of Blackadder, Not the Nine o’Clock News, Spitting Image and co-author of 1227 QI facts at the RSA a few weeks back.  John’s talk was entitled “General Ignorance – It’s all about what you don’t know”.  John and I had a pleasant conversation afterwards as it turned out that I was the 3rd Peter Cook he has met, having of course been good friends with the comic genius during his Perrin Walk years in Hampstead.  Click on the image to listen to the full RSA event.

Ignorance is NOT Bliss

Ignorance is NOT Bliss

Uncertainty bedevils business decisions and all innovation projects, since they are all about the future.  We all know that “the past ain’t what it used to be” and our algorithms for making decisions based on the past are pretty near redundant.  We need better routines to handle decisions about the future these days.  However, I’m pretty certain (sic) that uncertainty in business breaks down into two dimensions – uncertainty over the destination and uncertainty over the journey:

Wicked problems

Smart leaders know that different strategies are required to deal with the different ‘zones’ of uncertainly.  For more on this topic read ‘Sex, Leadership and Rock’n’Roll‘.  These include:

Zone 3 – Finding a genuinely shared, potent and viable VISION

Zone 2 – Identifying ingenious and hard to copy strategies through PRACTICAL CREATIVITY and IMPROVISATION

Zone 1 – Asking an expert or someone who knows (often overlooked in favour of a strategy summit! 🙂 )

Zone 4 – Unpicking complex and conflicting issues where uncertainty is a constant – or SWAMP DRAINING

If you still haven’t found what you’re looking for re great decisions or innovation, get in touch.  If you have, feel free to enjoy Bono’s anthem on uncertainty:

Coming on 31 1 13 the new book “The Music of Business” with whole sections on strategy and change.  I can hardly believe my luck in getting the quote below from Harvey Goldsmith.  “The Music of Business” is available to order at AMAZON.CO.UKAMAZON.COM, and KINDLE with special discounts on 31 1 13.  To sample the book have a look at a sneak preview via a SLIDESHARE presentation or visit the book WEBSITE.

The Music of Business - launch date 31 1 13

The Music of Business – launch date 31 1 13

Black Sabbath – The Power of Music

There are very few things in business and life that have such awesome power that they cause the Catholic Church to attempt to ban them. Music is one exception.

Black Sabbath came not from leafy suburbs of Surrey, nor did they study classical music at Oxford or Cambridge. They crawled out from the gutters of the industrial heartland of Birmingham, with three degrees in classic rock. Their music reflected a much harsher upbringing. Pioneers of the music genre called heavy metal, their music conjured up images of grime, paranoia and … devil worship, according to some. Let me explain.

Sabbath’s title song from their first album ‘Black Sabbath’ contains a musical riff that uses the musical tritone, or the so-called ‘devil’s interval’ – the sixth note of the musical scale. Unlike the major scale (do re me fa so la ti do for the non musical readers) the tritone was considered so powerful that the Catholic Church attempted to ban composers from using the note in the 16th Century. Remember that music was largely an act of patronage at this time, the monarch and the Church were much more connected, society was much more superstitious and the enlightenment had not happened. Put simply, physics had not happened. Had the Catholic Church followed the work of Maxwell, Hertz, Faraday et al they would have realised that you cannot ‘ban’ electromagnetic radiation!

So how did Sabbath get the “Riff” and was there a devilish intervention at work?  Guitarist Tony Iommi had an accident in which he lost the tips of two fingers on his right hand and he almost gave up playing the guitar. He capped the missing digits with thimbles made from plastic and covered in leather. He had to use lighter strings and detune them so he could grip them easily with the capped fingers. This combination gave a dark and foreboding sound and Iommi came up with the riff after a comment from Butler as he watched people queue to watch a Boris Karloff film.  He said it was “strange people would pay money to be scared” The rest as they say is history with Osborne and Butler adding powerful lyrics.

Black Sabbath’s ‘riff’, when written down in musical notation, sort of makes up the number 666, hence the notion that it would summon up the devil.  That’s why you won’t hear Kylie Minogue or Katy Perry using the tritone …  Whilst popular rumour suggested that Sabbath conducted live sacrifices and so on, they were more into drinking in pubs than drinking blood! Ah well, that’s music marketing for you. Here’s a little video I made that proves for the first time that the devil’s interval is harmless to animals:

Just to add more to this fascinating story The Rockefeller Foundation conducted research into psychosocial stress to produce “mass hysteria” and found the sound wave that caused this to be A=440/741hz.  Which is the same note as the Solfeggio (That’s the Devil’s Interval to you and me) banned by the Catholic Church and by coincidence the riff Iommi came up with for the song Black Sabbath. So was there devilish intervention at work or not?

Nonetheless, it’s interesting that music has such power. I will leave you with another Sabbath Classic, which also contains another ‘evil’ riff, using the flattened fourth, in the middle of the song:

Special thanks to Tom Hughes for co-writing this blog – Tom is a leadership trainer, enthusiasm generator and general music fanatic – Find him on Twitter @Thomas2BHughes

For more Heavy Metal Business articles – check SPINAL TAP on project management, DEEP PURPLE on improvisation, LED ZEPPELIN on strategy

The Rainbow Children – Prince, Diversity and Creativity

I just got sent this superb 28 minute film of Prince by Hollywood World Studio.  It is especially good at showcasing the diversity of Prince’s talent, exemplified by his album ‘The Rainbow Children”.  Oh damn, it got taken off my YouTube!

Some interesting observations about the original film:

  1. The film covers several quite distinct musical genres:  funk, soulful love songs, acoustic beatbox music plus Prince’s classic anthem Purple Rain.
  2. The band is a genuine meritocracy, irrespective of gender, race and so on e.g. women taking on less traditional roles of bass and sax.
  3. The show is meticulously rehearsed and this leaves room for a little bit of on the fly improvisation, mostly conducted by Prince himself, who gives signals to the rest of the band to extend passages, put solo segues in and so on.

How many artists could you say this about?

The potential downside of Prince’s desire to play so many different styles is that this may have lost him some of his audience along the way.  Some people prefer a repeat performance rather than something different?

Turning to business, feel free to make a contribution on the blog around these questions:

  • If you decide to change your product or service, how do you keep your customers whilst acquiring new ones?
  • How do you genuinely make diversity and meritocracy work to your advantage?
  • How do you combine structure / discipline / preparation with creativity / improvisation / spontaneity to keep the customer experience fresh?
  • What can we learn from Prince about resilience, excellence and becoming a learning company?

A book extract about Prince from my last book ‘Sex, Leadership and Rock’n’Roll’ is available for FREE.  Simply e-mail me with Prince in the title ( for your copy.  I explore more of Prince’s personal qualities and the relationship with becoming an agile, ingenious and innovative company within the new book “The Music of Business“, acclaimed by Harvey Goldsmith.

Sex, Leadership and Rock’n’Roll – contains a U-LOG-EYE to Prince

Competition for Sex, Drugs and Rock’n’Roll

The good people at Lavender Blue Media decided to launch a competition for my latest book ‘Sex, Leadership and Rock’n’Roll’. There is one very tough question. To find out more, go to COMPETITION

May the best person win!