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.

Anarchy in the UK

Screen Shot 2015-04-03 at 13.53.39I’m delighted to announce a groundbreaking once in a lifetime event that examines Punk Rock as a “disruptive innovation” and crosses this over to the world of work.

Come to our special event on Tuesday June 9th evening in Kent, where I will be speaking on punk rock and disruption and working alongside The Godfather of Punk, Mr Richard Strange.  Richard has worked with Jack Nicholson, The Sex Pistols, Martin Scorsese, The Damned, Spandau Ballet, Sophia Loren, Tom Waits, Marianne Faithful, Jarvis Cocker and Damon Albarn, as well as appearing in Harry Potter, Batman, Mona Lisa, Men Behaving Badly, Robin Hood and Gangs of New York.  The event will feature keynotes, interviews, film and a cameo music performance of Richard’s work across 38 years from The Doctors of Madness and beyond.

I will be launching the 2nd edition of Punk Rock People Management – my anti-establishment book about the establishment at the event.  Expect some irreverent and possibly irrelevant ramblings about the crazy world of work, punctuated by a few punk rock riffs. I will perform some ambient music soundscapes from my basement and may also accompany Richard on a few numbers from his canon of work with The Doctors of Madness.

Tickets are just £10 and strictly limited in numbers via Punk Rock.  Get yourself a copy of the ludicrously short but succinct book Punk Rock People Management – A manifesto for faster and better humane relations via The Cultured Llama.

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Innovation and Creativity

Last week Bloomsbury commissioned a groundbreaking book on innovation and creativity from me. Bloomsbury are the home of Harry Potter and have a major cadre of thought leaders and business authors alongside their popular offerings. I’m wondering if you would like to be part of this great adventure?

Bloomsbury's HQ in London

Bloomsbury’s HQ in London

I’m looking for stories and mini case studies to be included in the book with full credits to you and your company. There are two themes – one personal and the other more business focused:

1. Personal Creativity Stories

Have you got a story which illustrates how your own creativity works? Can you articulate the circumstances under which you are at your most creative? Do you work best alone or in groups. Does the environment, your mood, stimulation level or time of day matter? Typical strategies for personal creativity include running, showering, being engaged in some non-work related activity e.g. ironing, gardening etc. I’ve attached an example below to give you an idea of the sort of thing I’m looking for. Your story could be anything from 50 to 300 words long. It would be good if you can tie your story to an underlying principle from psychology or neuroscience.

2. Innovation Mini Cases

For Innovation Leaders

  • How do you structure for innovation in your enterprise?
  • How do you create a culture and climate for intrapreneuship?
  • How do you deal with failure?
  • How is your approach to innovation informed (or not) by what academics and thought leaders say about the process of bringing new things into being?

For Innovators

  • Have you taken an idea and converted it to a profitable / sustainable innovation?
  • How did you set about that?
  • What barriers did you have to overcome?
  • How was your approach informed (or not) by what academics and thought leaders say about the process of bringing new things into being?
  • What has been the impact? – on you, on others, on society?

We currently have case studies from Virgin, Pfizer, Fuji Film, Widget, Dyson etc. so I’m looking for examples from different walks of business life. Your case could be anything from 300 to 1200 words long – it does not have to include all the aspects I’ve mentioned above and could focus on other aspects of innovation.

Please send your contributions via e-mail to peter@humdyn.co.uk. The deadline for book submission is tight and I really need your contributions within one month (19 April) to have a realistic chance to integrate your piece into the final manuscript.

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Peter Cook leads Human Dynamics and The Academy of Rock. Author of eight books on leadership and creativity as it applies to business. His latest offerings “Punk Rock People Management” – 2nd Edition and a NEW edition of “The Music of Business” may be pre-ordered now by clicking on the image.

Click to order

Click to order

 

Welcome Constraints

jack-white-5

In the film It Might Get Loud, guitarist Jack White says that technology makes us lazy and laziness is bad for creativity. He is right. My first guitar cost £10, the strings stood about an inch (slight exaggeration but not much) from the neck which made my fingers work much harder to play the instrument than normal. As a result, people tell me that I can bend strings an incredible amount akin to Dave Gilmour of Pink Floyd, even though I don’t use particularly a light gauge of strings.

White often uses low-quality instruments to force him to play differently, although the Gretsch he is pictured with above is not one of them!  He says:

“If it takes me three steps to get to the organ, then I’ll put it four steps away. I’ll have to run faster, I’ll have to push myself harder to get to it.”

This is something I completely understand as a musician and a scientist.  Some of the best music I made was written using poor equipment where there had to be some kind of struggle to extract something from it.  I spent a lot of time in the 1980’s and 1990’s chaining reel to reel tape recorders together, reversing and splicing tape to create sounds that had never been heard before.  Admittedly a few of these nobody ever wanted to hear again either!

Contrary to popular opinion, constraints are useful for creativity in all walks of life.  James Dyson would not have invented the Dyson vacuum cleaner if he had not become frustrated at his vacuum cleaner which “did not suck”. Isambard Kingdom Brunel would have not built the Great Western Railway without feeling frustrated that he could not get to Cornwall quickly, and so on.

The Clifton Suspension Bridge - one of the many of IK Brunel's achievements

The Clifton Suspension Bridge – one of the many of IK Brunel’s achievements

It’s important to separate what I call “real constraints” from “imaginary ones”.  A real constraint might be a law of physics, an imaginary one simply an assumption such as a way of doing things that has become a habit or paradigm within an industry. In my own experience, I was partly responsible for developing the world’s first AIDS treatment.  A real constraint was that of time.  We needed to collapse the traditional drug development process time to bring the drug to market as quickly and safely as possible.  At that time Wellcome was renowned for making tablet formulations and this would have been our “paradigm response” to the situation.  In the event, we elected to formulate the product as a capsule, something we were very inexperienced with but which would deliver the quickest route to market. This committed us to a rapid learning programme of work to develop the product. In doing so we eliminated the artificial constraint of “we always do it that way”.

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When we design creative thinking sessions for companies seeking to rethink their strategy, products, services and internal processes, I like to boundary the topic under study with the real constraints that surround it.  These should not be too many – too many constraints tend to stifle ingenious thinking and no constraints tend to produce unfocused creativity.  Some disagree with me on this, saying that creative thinking should be a no holds barred affair.  Long experience in working with people and companies that look for commercial creativity i.e. ideas that have utility suggests that this is wasteful and often does not lead to execution as the ideas developed do not pass the obstacles that are in the way of execution. The theory of constraints is well documented and mostly forgotten by people who think only about the positive side of business improvement.  I wrote recently for Sir Richard Branson on this topic in terms of the internal barriers to innovation and you can read the post at Virgin.

For many years, I’ve used my “fried egg model” to describe the essentials needed to specify a problem or opportunity that is amenable to ingenious thinking.  I was delighted when Charles Handy told me he had thought of something similar for his book “The Empty Raincoat” but later decided it was too fanciful.  The fried egg model requires there to be enough “thinking space” between “the demands or goal” and “the constraints” to provide an arena for productive creativity – “the choices”.  This is why it’s a fried egg and not a boiled one sliced through the middle!  Here is the fried egg I always carry in my bag alongside my computer as I’m sure we all do …

The Fried Egg Model - Demands, Constraints, Choices

The Fried Egg Model – Demands, Constraints, Choices

Andy Wooler offered me this excellent additional example of the use of constraints from the world of music via Arnold Schoenberg’s use of “Serialism”, of which one expression is the twelve-tone technique. We wouldn’t have the magnificent “Rite of Spring” without it. The technique requires that all 12 notes of the chromatic scale are sounded as often as one another whilst preventing the emphasis of any one note. This constraint did not get in the way of exciting music and some thought it was a breath of fresh air. Of course, as it is music, not everyone agrees!

To finish, here’s that first guitar that taught me the value of constraints – I was hold it was a Hofner Futurama by the insurance salesman that sold it to me for £10.  It was heavily modified with “Brian May” Burns Trisonic pickups which were its crowning glory.  It taught me to be strong!  I eventually managed to buy another one for a similar price although his one was so bad in construction and playing that I had to take a saw to it.  It was 1977 after all – the year of punk!

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Guitar Book Collage

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Peter Cook leads Human Dynamics, offering better Organisation Development, Training and Coaching. He offers keynotes that blend World Class Leadership Thinking with the wisdom of the street via The Academy of Rock – where Business Meets Music. Author of seven books on Business Leadership, acclaimed by Tom Peters, Professors Charles Handy, Adrian Furnham and Harvey Goldsmith CBE. 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.

Hollywood comes to … Wakefield

With the great Bill Nelson - continuously creative for more that 45 years

With the great Bill Nelson – continuously creative for more than 45 years

It was a rare privilege and a great pleasure to make a 12 hour round trip to Wakefield on Monday, to witness the artist, musician and friend Mr Bill Nelson receive a lifetime achievement award for his work in a ceremony that lasted less than 10 minutes.  The Wakefield Stars Scheme aims to acknowledge lifetime achievements of local people and the ambition is to pave the area all the way from the Bull Ring to The Hepworth Gallery with these Hollywood styled pavement plaques. Bill will be sitting amongst such stunning company as Henry Moore, the composer Noel Gay, John Godber the playwright, Barbara Hepworth, Sir Martin Frobisher, conservationist Charles Waterton and many others who made Wakefield’s mark on the world.

Bill has defied convention, setting his own path in a music world dominated by people who prefer to follow the latest fashion. Perhaps one of the first to start his own independent label Cocteau Records, Bill has always been at least two steps ahead of the world.  Admired by Sir Paul McCartney, Kate Bush, Brian May and many other greats.  An influence on people such as Prince, Big Country, Dave Grohl etc. and copied by post-modern acts such as My Chemical Romance and The Darkness.  You can read more on this aspect at Bill Nelson – integrity and creativity in a bottle.

Perhaps the most poignant moment of the ceremony was when Bill recalled that he had stood at the foot of the stage at around the age of four years old as his father Walter played the saxophone at a wedding. Bill had been given a toy saxophone to play along with his father! He has had some sadness in his life of late, as he is suffering from hearing loss. It was this news that compelled me to make the journey for what was less than an hour at the event, having connected deeply with Bill’s sense of frustration at the thought that he may not be able to make or hear music in quite the same way ever again. I also know that Bill will rise again as there are some wonderful things that can be done in this age to mitigate the symptoms that he is experiencing. It was also lovely to see Bill’s Mum who always looks fantastic, alongside Bill’s wife Emiko and the Nelson family – a proud moment for them.

I was reminded of scenes from “Dads Army” with the Town Clerk, as the Director of Culture and the Arts attempted to read his speech without any real knowledge of Bill’s work and his impact across the world! :-) Still, it was rather charming for all that and he made a really good effort despite his lack of knowledge of Wakefield’s finest. A little less time spent in strategic planning committees and more on the street is recommended :-) Bill pointed out that the last prize he won was a bar of chocolate for striking the triangle once in a performance when he was a boy! He has been hitting all the right notes ever since despite no formal musical education. Like myself, Bill claims he cannot read music, playing by ear and using intuition to guide him into new sonic territories. It’s a refreshing change to the ‘painting by numbers’ approach that turns out identikit musicians these days.

From Hollywood to Holyground ...

From Hollywood to Holyground …

In case you are unfamiliar with Bill’s work, here’s a sample of the huge diversity of his music. Check his website out at Bill Nelson and catch up with his output. This truly was an adventure in a Yorkshire landscape which was made in heaven … Sign your name with a star …

Here's hoping the Wakefield's Starman will rise again - Thank you for 40 years of continuous joy

Here’s hoping that Wakefield’s Starman will rise again – Thank you for 40 years of continuous joy. Stay Young

The “F” Word – Leadership Lessons from Failure

This Saturday September 06 I am presenting at The Institute for Contemporary Music Performance on the subject of failure. It’s a word that managers fear, yet any successful leader or entrepreneur will usually have failed a few times if they are talking honestly about success. The lecture offers practical lessons about entrepreneurship, strategy, creativity, project planning, team leadership and execution of your strategy for people trying to do new things, via the medium of a case study. Before you ask, NOOO, it’s not your usual dull business case study!!  Read on and check out the full conference at ICMP

Failure and Success - The truth

Failure and Success – The truth

Some years ago, I sponsored an audacious plan to circumnavigate the world on a rock’n’roll tour, performing at the greatest venues on the planet and taking your audience with you. I invested nearly £50 000 of my life savings in order to help my friend John Otway to advance the enterprise forward. Alas, my involvement came too late and despite achieving a temporary turnaround in fortunes, it was not enough to recover the situation and I most the money and about 6 months effort in an attempt to help John realise his dream. I dubbed the project, “The Real Spinal Tap Tour”.  Take a look at the promo video for the tour to get a flavour of the ambition:

Like most business enterprises, the John Otway World Tour was a GREAT idea, poorly EXECUTED.  It is never enough to have a great idea in business. Meticulous execution skills are needed to bring the idea into existence and I will explore the successes, near misses and downright catastrophes that led to the eventual meltdown of the project.  To whet your appetite, here are a few stunning facts about the tour:

A comedy of errors...

A comedy of errors…

Our presentation is available in your company with parallel lessons for businesses. We are also available to help you avoid similar flights of fancy or to turn difficult corners in your own projects. For the moment, here is the magical moment that started John Otway’s career, when he fell off an amplifier on The Old Grey Whistle Test, injuring vital parts. This is a stunt which Otway has developed in his career ever since, including our performance at Pfizer:

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Peter Cook leads Human Dynamics, offering better Organisation Development, Training and Coaching. He offers keynotes that blend World Class Leadership Thinking with the wisdom of the street via The Academy of Rock – where Business Meets Music. Author of seven books on Business Leadership, acclaimed by Tom Peters, Professors Charles Handy, Adrian Furnham and Harvey Goldsmith CBE.