The death of the 3 minute pop song?

I am very lucky to have contributed a song to this unique album of 100 songs which are just 30 seconds long. The album 100×30 is the brainchild of Marc Christopher Lee and was featured in The Independent just recently:


Click on the logo to read the article

Marc was interviewed on ITV News in London on Friday 11 December with the story. The concept reminded me of the work of Bill Nelson who produced several albums of simple musical illustrations, each one unfinished and recorded pretty much as is, without further refinement and so on, to preserve the musical ideas as they were conceived of at birth.

Click on the image to view ITV News

Will it be a Christmas Number One?  Buy a copy to help

Here’s some of the tracks from 100×30 – you have got time to play them all as they are 30 seconds each!! No wasted space 🙂

I interviewed Marc Christopher Lee at The Virgin Lounge last week on the ideas behind the album. I’ve discussed the importance of the theory of constraints for creativity and it is clear that the constraint of less time can produce creativity in music as much as the opposite. Find out more and download the album at 100×30, which features Mungo Jerry and Owen Paul amongst many others. Has the 3 minute pop song just died? Did brevity kill the prog rock star? Perhaps not, as David Bowie contemplates a 10 minute song for his new album, but the 30 second song is ripe for an age when only 50% of people can get all the way to the end of a song on their smart phone.


Click to download the album

Click the picture to download the album at http://www.100×


About the Writer:  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. Check our new book out for Bloomsbury “Leading Innovation, Creativity and Enterprise“.

Never Mind The Credit Card

Virgin Money

In a classic piece of disruptive innovation in branding, Virgin Money just introduced a credit card based on the iconic logos of the Sex Pistols’ designs for “Anarchy in the UK” and “Never Mind the Boll….cks, Here’s The Sex Pistols”. Virgin Money’s CEO and Marketing Director were talking with me about the card and you can read all about Virgin’s latest move at Never Mind The Bankers.

“We want to get rid of the bollocks in banking and to be simple, open, transparent and fair”

Jayne-Anne Gadhia, Virgin Money’s CEO

As is Sir Richard Branson’s way, Virgin challenges norms, having disrupted British Airway’s cosy relationship with the British Government in the 1980’s when they launched Virgin Atlantic. I’ve been chatting about the credit card concept to people from several walks of life to find out how they see the strategy. It becomes clear that Virgin have succeeded in polarising views from different segments of society:

Some of my “arty” friends are “appalled at the theft of punk’s pure clothes for the purposes of banking”. I guess this is the punk rock version of “Angry of Camden”:

Some of my banking friends are “outraged at the use of street culture to demean the upper class world of banking”. I guess this will soon appear in a letter to the Financial Times from a man or a woman in a bowler hat living in Surbiton:


The point of the matter is that Sir Richard Branson has succeeded on every level, gaining publicity through disruptive thinking.

I answer my arty friends thus:

“All good disruption eventually becomes part of the mainstream. Check out the punk fashion in Claire’s Accessories if you don’t believe me”

I answer my banking friends thus:

“It’s about time banking woke up to customers, mainly in terms of substance e.g. convenience, simplicity, but a bit of style would also do no harm”

So, I think this is an incredibly shrewd and clever move on the part of Virgin to cast a shadow on the battleship grey industry that is banking. It’s a marvellous piece of market segmentation that gains publicity and viral value through controversy. Let’s see the masters of controversy in action:

The Virgin Battleship Building – Not Grey

Come to our next masterclass event in Warsaw on 23/24 June, where we’ll be discussing Punk Rock, Disruptive Innovation and The Virgin Way amongst many other things in a day of inspired intelligence and fun. Grab your ticket here.

Peter Cook is author of “The Music of Business” and “Punk Rock People Management” which simplify business leadership, creativity and innovation, strategic thinking and people management for busy people.

Check out the books at Cultured Llama.

Punk Rock HR – A Manifesto for Better HR Strategy and Practice

I was asked by Steve Browne for a post that summed up my thoughts on how HR can get better.  Steve is Executive Director at La Rosa’s Pizza in the US and is a massive HR and rock music radical.  So here is my post with some background as to why I feel able to comment on such matters for my US cousins.

Having spent many years running the Kent Branch of The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) in the UK, acting as a board member of their Council, working in HR for a Pharmaceutical Company and teaching Strategic HRM at MBA level, I had an extended period to study HR strategy and practice from the viewpoints of my original careers as a scientist and innovation leader. As a result, I wrote a manifesto for HR transformation in a book called “Punk Rock People Management”.  In case you are wondering if this requires HR pros to pogo whilst doing staff appraisals, relax! The “Punk Rock” aspect of the title simply refers to three underlying principles of the punk rock phenomenon that apply to good HR strategy and practice:

SimplicitySimplification in punk was about three chords or even less.  Lou Reed once claimed that anything more than three chords is jazz.  Likewise, good HR and great leaders make the complex compellingly simple. If HR is overly complex it’s no surprise if managers reach for their own versions of policies and procedures.

Keep it simple

BrevityBrevity in punk was exactly what it said on the tin. The Ramones managed to get their message across in just over two minutes and some of Wire’s early recordings coming in at under one minute, compared with the neo classical 20 minute overtures that characterised Prog Rock (Make no mistake, I’m a big Prog Rock fan as well, but we’re not here to discuss musical tastes).  To misquote Albert Einstein good HR keeps things as short as they need to be but no shorter …

Keep it short

AuthenticityAt punk’s core was the idea of telling it like it is. Good HR also keeps things real.  In practice the great HR professional speaks in the language of the business they serve rather than hiding behind HR jargon.  Jargon is a natural feature of all professions, but when it excludes rather than engages it has lost its purpose as a kind of ‘shorthand’.

Keep it real

Authenticity Lou Reed Annie Lennox

I was speaking with Ron Thomas, CEO of Great Place to Work, in the Gulf just recently. We discussed some other qualities that characterise great HR, amongst them:

Understand the business – Good HR professionals align the HR strategy and tactics with the long-term business imperatives.  It’s what I call the “HR Six Pack”:

Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 17.23.04

The HR Six Pack – not modelled here by Iggy Pop …

Understand the numbers – Business starts with the financials rather than the appraisal process etc. A grip on the numbers gives you the context to make better HR decisions by fact rather than guesswork. HR professionals also need to be data savvy rather than leaving that to the IT or finance professionals.

Understand the context – You’ve got all your HR / Business qualifications right? So why isn’t the CEO wanting to implement the 9 box model, 360 degree appraisals and so on?  Business schools offer an idealized view of how things should be at work, but work rarely works like that. Successful HR professionals understand context and adopt a “best fit” approach, seizing opportunities to make their workplaces great and understanding the nuance of time and timing. This is usually superior than attempting to plug in “best practice” elements without considering the context, rather akin to attempting a kidney transplant without considering the recipient.

For more on subjects such as recruitment, induction, engagement, rewards, appraisal, promotion, innovation, training, conflict, exit and so on pick up a copy of “Punk Rock People Management” or attend one of our Music and Business keynotes or masterclasses.



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.

Contact him via

Innovation cannibalism

The Venus Fly Trap differentiates itself by turning itself into a meat eating plant. What is your difference?

In this interview, I’m talking with Mark Lambert.  With a background in HSBC global markets, Mark is a Deep Purple fanatic and a jazz drummer to boot, having performed with Bernie Tormé at our Monsters of Rock event.  I must say he put out a mean challenge to Purple’s Ian Gillan and Bernie said he was a pleasure to work with.

Mark’s controversial thesis is that innovation eats itself.  I asked him to explain more:

“The business writer Michael Porter tells us that organisations seek competitive advantage by offering consumers new products and services.  Merely cost-cutting and re-engineering are insufficient for a company to survive. Instead, constant innovation is required to stay ahead in the battle for consumers.”

Is there a limit to how far this idea applies?

“Although the number of potential consumers is large and growing, an optimistic view (putting aside famines, droughts, diseases and wars for a moment) is that there will eventually, one would hope, come a time when, to borrow the ideas of Maslow, all of their needs at all levels will be met.  Moreover, given the relative pace of technological change compared to the rate of human evolution, that time may be soon approaching.  Once consumers have all their perceived needs met, where is the pressure to innovate?

Conventional wisdom would have us believe that innovation is everywhere: mobile phones, e-mail and the Internet have all transformed business and social life in the last 30 years.  The world of today is very different from the world of only a few decades ago.  People in the developed world, especially young people, are switched-on, on-line and linked-in, with supercomputer-like processing power at their finger-tips, unprecedented access to information and extensive social networks.

Yet in one area, there is less change.

Popular music in the 1970’s was awash with a rich variety of styles. Alongside well-established genres that included ‘easy listening’ and jazz, new genres emerged such as jazz-funk, disco and several variations of rock that included ‘heavy’, ‘progressive’ and ‘punk’.  In Darwinian terms, some of these more-or-less random musical mutations can be, with hindsight, considered failures while others succeeded and spawned other new styles such as ‘new age’ and ‘electronica’.  The target consumer group was generally people under the age of about 30 and music was one of the major entertainment/leisure time activities available, the main competitor being television (which had the disadvantages of limited choice, lack of record/replay facilities and relatively poor sound quality).  A trip to the local record shop and a new LP purchase would typically be followed by an evening of contemplative listening, maybe a with couple of friends and a mug of instant coffee.

Would Deep Purple’s album Machine Head have now been reduced to a 3 track single in an age of grazing?

Now press the fast-forward button on your portable cassette player.  In 2012, the typical western teenager’s entertainment needs are met by a greater number of product offerings that are facilitated by more sophisticated technologies, especially the Internet.  Music now struggles to compete with high-quality (in the technological if not the creative sense) audio-visual content from the likes of YouTube.  Social networking sites are popular and smart phones have a vast range of appealing apps. Young consumers tend to have less spare time, lower boredom thresholds, and are more adept than their parents at multi-tasking – listening to background television while twittering friends and doing their homework.  They generally prefer to download individual tracks from a favourite artist rather than listening to a whole album and buy fewer CD’s than their parents.  Editor’s note – there is more on this point in the interviews with Richard Strange and Bernie Tormé.

Without the perceived need, Joseph Engelberger, the father of robotics, tells us, the reason to innovate diminishes.”

So what would we expect to hear under such conditions?

“Songs which are musically predictable with lyrics that don’t demand attention from the listener and that are performed by artists who all conform to a generic appearance.  The music industry becomes a cash-cow where commercial returns diminish and companies are unlikely to invest in new, riskier projects.  Eventually, it no longer becomes financially viable to release genuinely new music with old songs being repeatedly re-hashed by an ever-rotating roster of new faces that look and sound just like the previous generation.”

Does it matter?

“Maybe it doesn’t really matter.  Music is not the most important thing for a large proportion of the world’s population who have greater concerns (at Maslow’s lower levels).  But a world bereft of innovative music is, ultimately, a less creative and emotionally uplifting place for us all.”

I could not agree more.  Let’s take a piece of Mark’s favourite music to prove the point. Deep Purple in full flow jamming with their song Lazy from their album Machine Head, featuring the stunning keyboard work of John Lord:

Amanda Carter from Seattle sums up on disruptive innovation:

1) Rules are meant to be broken

2) Reality is consciously changeable

3) Expect the unexpected 🙂

About Mark Lambert:

Mark Lambert is a Business Manager who has worked for several leading financial institutions in London and the Netherlands.  He has a couple of physics degrees and an MBA and his areas of specialism include:

Analysing and solving business and IT problems
Creating and managing global teams
Writing : reports, magazine articles
Playing and recording music


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  For a copy of our book on disruptive innovation in HR, mail us with PUNK in the title:

HR will eat itself - Disruptive Innovation in HR

Punk Rock People Management – Disruptive Innovation in HR