Seasick Steve

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I was blessed to witness a performance by Seasick Steve the other week at the Ramblin’ Man Fair in Maidstone. In case you are not aware, Steven Gene Wold is a 73 year old blues musician who left home at the age of 13 to avoid abuse by his stepfather, travelling as a hobo on freight trains for much of his early life. Having worked with people such as Joni Mitchell and been a studio engineer and producer, he made his breakthrough at the age of 62 after an appearance on “Later with Jools Holland”, thus proving that it’s never too late to start a new career in the music business.

Steve is living proof that less can equal more in life. Amongst the guitars he plays he has the one pictured above, made from car hubcaps and a broomstick. He also plays a one string guitar, a neat demonstration of the theory of constraints and his famous three string Trance Wonder, pictured below:

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Amongst the artists that we interviewed at the Ramblin’ Man Fair were Bernie Marsden, Marillion, Joanne Shaw Taylor, Bob Wayne, Jess and the Bandits, The Temperance Movement, Blue Oyster Cult, Aaron Keylock, The Quireboys, No Hot Ashes, The Rival Sons, narrowly missing Vic Reeves, Ian Anderson and Saxon. Check out our interviews with Music Giants at Interviews to see these in due course.

We finish with some of the great man’s work with one string, three stringed guitars etc.

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For more on Music and Business grab your copy of The Music of Business.

Check our offerings on the blues and motivation at Keynotes.

Click on the picture to check the book out

Click on the picture to check the book out

Management Talk

Wesley Gransden is the host of a new series called Management Talk and I was honoured to be his first guest the other week. Click on the image to hear his first show:

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We had a different kind of chat about the good, bad and ugly of management and leadership, including the following themes:

  1. How do you manage your career?
  2. What have management and music got in common?
  3. Why does cognitive dissonance matter in business?
  4. How can you get the best out of people that are different to you?
  5. What can we learn from Sir Richard Branson and Clive Sinclair about innovation?
  6. What is mathematical creativity?  How can we use it?
  7. Is everyone creative?
  8. How do leaders use emotional intelligence to create great results?
  9. What is a Brain Based Enterprise and who is doing this?
  10. What’s in the new edition of The Music of Business?

Listen in to Management Talk, grab a copy of the book and contact us to meet for a free consultation in London or by Skype. Later in the year we will be back on the show with our version of Desert Island Management Discs …

Click on the picture to check the book out

Click on the picture to check the book out

Axe Victims

Recently I organised an amazing project to bring 6 perfect strangers together from all over the UK to Bernie Torme’s Studio in the garden of England, with the sole ambition of honouring my friend Bill Nelson, leader of English pop art groups Be-Bop Deluxe and Red Noise. Bill has given us over 40 years of pleasure through his continuous creativity. United only by a shared purpose and passion for Bill’s music we set about recording three songs by Bill’s first group Be-Bop Deluxe, ending up in recording four in just under 6 hours. The background story as to how we managed to achieve so much from a cold start is worth exploring. In just 22 hours, the band formed, stormed, normed, performed and reformed from perfect strangers to permanent flames.

The Lazing Apostles L-R: Robert Craven, Tim Hands, Neil Turnbull (seated), Graham Burgess (seated), Bernie Torme, moi et Bryn Bardsley

This experience teaches us important transferable lessons about how to develop a high performance team in record time from an extremely unpromising start point.

Get Great Raw Materials

The “Lazing Apostles” (a spoof on one of Bill’s songs entitled Blazing Apostles) were selected using the internet after I placed an online “advert” for band members on Facebook. There were no auditions, interviews or psychometric tests. Nobody knew each other before we met with the exception of the drummer, who I worked with during my time at The Wellcome Foundation. It seemed that everyone intuitively understood the “job spec” and the level of capabilities required. All I did prior to meeting face to face was to arrange a brief meeting on Skype for an initial social chat.

The facebook advert and job spec

The band we ended up with were a motley crew:

  1. Tim Hands – Lead Vocals – Acoustic Guitar – Tim works on film productions for Handsome Sound Ltd – Lives in Market Harborough
  2. Neil Turnbull – Drums and Percussion – Neil is a worldwide pharmaceutical troubleshooter for Pfizer – also a drummer with heavy metal band Sacrilege. A resident of Whitstable in Kent
  3. Robert Craven – Electric rhythm guitar – Robert is an author of 10 books on marketing and small business leadership. MD at The Directors’ Centre – Based in Bristol
  4. Bryn Bardsley – Bass supremo – Bryn is a professional musician having worked in corporate life for many years – Lives in the frozen north and works as an odd job man
  5. Graham Burgess – Keyboards – Graham performs in a number of Progressive Rock bands – I know little else about him – From Hastings – is a senior member of the local council
  6. Moi – Lead guitar and backing vocals – enough said – A man of Kent

Two management consultants, a film producer, an odd job man, a council officer, a druggist – not quite the usual rock’n’roll credentials!!

Bill Nelson with one of his early heroes, Duane Eddy. Check Bill’s latest work out at Bill Nelson.com

Combine Passion with Purpose

We had agreed to attempt three songs on the day, possibly two if things went less well. I converged our song choices to three using a Delphi type process using a secret ballot on a list of songs chosen by the group. This meant there was a razor sharp focus to deliver these songs on the day and no divergence to try other songs. This is essential under limited time conditions. We also agreed the structures of each song through e-mails and sharing definitive template versions of the songs from Youtube. Each member then set about learning their parts individually – there were no joint practices and fairly little discussion prior to meeting in person.

Getting the Chemistry right

Given our complete lack of playing together, we sensibly agreed to meet at Bernie’s studio the night before, with the ambition of running through the songs once or twice and having a few beers to develop the essential “psychological contract”. We needed just over an hour of physical practice before we retired to the pub to let our work incubate over night …

Chemistry matters – gelling diverse talents and drinking chemicals (beer)

Rules of engagement

Without the use of a flip chart or holding hands in a circle, everyone in the band got the rules of engagement.  In hindsight, I think they were:

  1. Take no prisoners – We delegated authority over musical direction to Bernie Torme who simply told us when we had done enough etc.
  2. No pussyfooting – at various times we needed to substitute someone in the band to play a part. For example I simply wasn’t “feeling the love” when playing acoustic guitar on Crying To The Sky. Unlike some bands, this was done without fuss or damaging egos.
  3. Playfulness – although we were under some time pressure, it was a true joy to play with the other band members and we all enjoyed various mistakes we made, supporting each other etc.

The real boss - Bernie Torme - click to find his tour dates and studio

The real boss – Bernie Torme – click the image to check his tour dates out

Start with the end in mind

Given the huge geographical separation of the band members (I estimate we travelled some 1500 miles between us to attend the recording session), the most important thing we did was to lock in the recording date at the beginning. Creativity and genius counts for nothing if you are not all in the same room at the same time!

80 percent of success is showing up”

Woody Allen

Here are the four songs we produced on the day, plus the ‘re-enactment’ of the cover of “Sunburst Finish” shown above, sans nudity and perspex cage, otherwise completely accurate in all respects! :-) We are planning a return project at some point.

 

“Sign your name with a star”

Bill Nelson at the awards ceremony for his “Wakefield Star” award

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Peter Cook offers keynotes that blend World Class Thinking with parallel lessons from music via The Academy of Rock and better Business and Organisation Development via Human Dynamics.

Read more about Bill Nelson in the book “The Music of Business

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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General Election – Vote P-Funk

I hear there’s an election coming up and I understand that many people don’t know how or whether to vote. It seems that the issues of trust and authenticity sit beneath this dilemma for many people.

If I had free will, I would vote for a different kind of Parliament, with George Clinton as the leader! :-) George has just finished his tour of the UK and heads back to the states with Parliament / Funkadelic shortly. I took the BBC Economics Editor Robert Peston to meet “President Clinton” the other week, having spotted his interest in George’s piece on the BBC Today programme on Twitter and having also conducted an interview with the Godfather of P-Funk.

I first spotted Robert's interest in P-Funk on Twitter

I first spotted Robert’s interest in P-Funk on Twitter

It was great to meet Robert with my friend Dr Andrew Sentance – as well as being a superb business, economics expect and journalist, Robert’s insights and interest in music made for an unforgettable evening which mashed funk, psychedelia, rap, rock and hip hop into a seamless whole. We spent several pleasant hours talking about David Bowie, Bill Nelson, Prince, Punk Rock and a host of other topics, washed down with a minor injection of business, economics and beer. I was bemused as Robert had to leave the concert momentarily to report on the General Election for the BBC 10 o’clock News, whilst standing outside the “New Houses of Parliament” at Koko’s in Camden! That’s devotion for you.

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The CEO (Chief Economics Officer) meets the CFO (Chief Funk Officer) – with The BBC’s Robert Peston and George Clinton backstage at Koko’s in Camden – Big thanks to Lois Acton and Suki for their help

George has just released a boxed set of albums called “Chocolate City”, recorded live at Metropolis Studios in London. The original album title refers to the black domination of the inner city populations in the US in contrast to what was termed “white flight”, the large scale migrations of white populations to more racially homogeneous suburban or rural locations. Music puts topics like this on the political agenda much more potently than a pile of “white papers” in the Houses of Parliament.

The Chocolate City Box Set

The Chocolate City Box Set

Here’s the ME1 TV interview with George and a link to our full article with Dr Funkenstein.

So, if you feel you can no longer trust our career politicians, my suggestion for the election is to vote for a new kind of Parliament where soul, humility and authenticity inform our decisions about world problems !! :-)  Unfortunately Mr Clinton is not standing for the P-Funk Party.

George Clinton returns to UK in the summer where he performs at Glastonbury amongst other dates. Check George’s new book “Brothas Be, Yo Like George – Ain’t That Funkin’ Kinda Hard On You?” out on Amazon.

First you gotta shake the gates ... of Parliament - George Clinton presents his P-Funk Manifesto at Westminster photo by Kofi Allen

First you gotta shake the gates … of Parliament – George Clinton presents his P-Funk Manifesto at Westminster photo by Kofi Allen

Venus in Furs meets a Symbol

Ain’t no party like a P-Funk Party – Venus in Furs meets a Symbol …

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Peter Cook leads Human Dynamics, offering better Business and Organisation Development, Training and Coaching. He offers keynotes that blend World Class Leadership Thinking with parallel lessons from music via The Academy of Rock. Author of 9 and 3/4 books on Business Leadership, acclaimed by Tom Peters, Professors Charles Handy, Adrian Furnham and Harvey Goldsmith CBE.

Join our group The Music of Business where we discuss parallel lessons from Business and Music. Come on down to our special event with the Godfather of Punk, Mr Richard Strange on June 9th – tickets selling fast via Punk Rock HR.

A Love Bizarre – Interviewing Sheila E

Sheila E

A Love Bizarre – Some days at work just don’t get any better

Can the end of a week in business get any better than this?  We just interviewed Sheila E. Sheila Escovedo is a world-class drummer and percussionist whose credits read like chapters in a music history book: Ringo Starr. Marvin Gaye, Prince, Beyoncé, Herbie Hancock, Diana Ross, Lionel Richie, Gloria Estefan and George Duke.

It was quite clear to me that rhythm is genetically imprinted into Sheila’s DNA and her family who performed with Carlos Santana amongst others. It was a pure delight to talk with Sheila. Amongst the many things we discussed were:

  • The central part that the musicians at the back of the stage play in making sure the music reaches everyone and the people at the front of the stage look even better.
  • The role of a musical director in bringing balance to a musical ensemble. Sheila acted as Musical Director for Prince – that’s no mean feat!
  • How creativity works in music and how to get better at what you do through embracing the rich diversity of your chosen artform.
  • Sheila’s collaborations with her father, George Duke and many others.
  • Sheila’s book The Beat of my own Drum, her recent album Icon and her new club, The E Spot
  • Sheila’s work in schools, bringing the joy of music to underprivileged children and her community project Elevate Oakland.
  • The importance of incubation for creativity, sometimes over long timescales.

Take a look at the full report and the exclusive film interview over at our Linkedin Page.

Who said girls can't play the drums?

Who said girls can’t play the drums? Click on the picture for the book

The concert at The Brooklyn Bowl was superb and it was a great pleasure to get past the ‘facebook pages’ and actually meet the organiser of the Purple Army group Pippa Roberts and the woman that has given them so much assistance Debbie Poli.

Some of Sheila' supporters from The Purple Army

Some of Sheila’s supporters from The Purple Army – photo credit Marcus Docherty

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Sheila E and Eddie M burning down the house – Photo Credit Leena Khanna

Sex Cymbal - at the Brooklyn Bowl

Sex Cymbal – at the Brooklyn Bowl

For now, just take a look at some of Sheila’s video output:

And for some more on the importance of rhythm in music, business and life, see our interview with Chris Slade of AC DC.  I was delighted to present Sheila with a copy of my book “Sex, Leadership and Rock’n’Roll”, even more delighted when she said she had seen and heard of it before!  Next week, I’m taking the BBC’s Robert Peston for a meeting with Mr George Clinton, so I’m expecting another masterclass in creativity from the Godfather of Funk.

The Leader of the Band - It was pure pleasure and a private joy to talk with Ms Escovedo

The Leader of the Band – It was pure pleasure and a private joy to talk with Ms Escovedo

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Our new book on Leadership, Innovation and Creativity is scheduled for 2016 release.

In the meantime, do order your copy of the NEW edition of “The Music of Business” – Parallel lessons on Business from Music.

Come to our showcase event June 9th, featuring The Godfather of Punk, Richard Strange.