Breadline Britain: Vince Cable, Economics and Rock’n’Roll

I had the good fortune to meet The Rt. Hon. Vince Cable, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills the other week, where we discussed economics (but no sex or Rock’n’Roll 🙂 )  The recent public sector strikes and the general mood of the nation reminded me of Jimmy Sommerville’s 1980’s classic “Breadline Britain”, hence the title of this blog:

During the meeting I discussed the thoughts of Evan Davis on the economy with Mr Cable.  I had met Evan a few weeks before, where he pointed out that the UK needs to create some new engines of growth in areas that other countries would (a) find hard to copy and (b) would give the UK export potential.  Vince broadly agreed with my suggestion that we don’t need a ‘nation of more tanning rooms and burger bars’, which largely consume wealth and have no export potential.  Of course, a shrinkage in the low value service sector and / or the public sector is deeply unpopular, but it does rather seem an inevitable consequence of some sound economic analysis.  We’ll see what happens now that we live in a rock’n’roll economy …

Cable but no Wireless - Vince Cable Rocks the Institute of Directors

We also discussed the slimming down of red tape in business.  I was delighted to present Vince with a copy of ‘Punk Rock People Management’, which I described as “perhaps the shortest white paper on simplifying business ever written”.  Being known for his unusually straightforward views, Vince was amused by the idea of being able to read a chapter in less time that it would take to pogo to a Sex Pistols song on Strictly Come Dancing.

So, it was a great meeting in the wonderful setting of Leeds Castle.  What an absolute coup for the Institute of Directors, who hosted the event.  All kudos to them for doing this.

What to finish this post with?  Well since a friend mixed Vince Cable up with Vince Clarke of Erasure, I guess we should go with one of their fine Essex based economical synth pop pieces – perhaps a call to some politicians who have lost Mr  Cable’s connection with ordinary people – “A Little Respect”:

To get your FREE copy of Punk Rock People Management or book a masterclass – either give Vince Cable a call or get in touch via the Punk Rock People Management webpage

Networking in the Dragons Den

I’d previously commented on the role of planned luck in making business networking work, following my recent visit to Greece.  Yet another few pieces of planned spontaneity came together the other day.

I’d been asked to make a film for the Open University Business School as an advocate of their MBA programme.   To make the most of their time and film crew, I devised a “3 for 1 offer”, by bringing along some great fellow MBA colleagues: Phil Hawthorn and Kim Tasso, a strategy/business development consultant and writer on management/marketing in the professions.  Here’s the film The Open University made, shot outside Dingwalls, the famous London Rock venue:

p.s. Video made by Louise Hill-Hottinger of Chalk Square Media– superb work with no fuss.

This led to an invite to the inaugural professorial lecture by Evan Davis, Presenter of BBC Radio 4’s Today, The Bottom Line and BBC One’s Dragons Den.  I had been keen to give Evan copies of ‘Sex, Leadership and Rock’n’Roll’ and ‘Punk Rock People Management’ and had wondered how to do that in an evening where there were more than 200 people present and there would be no time for detailed conversation.

The answer arrived quite by chance.  I got off the train at Milton Keynes to find Mr Davis on the platform, looking for the stairs.  “Are you going to the Open University Evan?” I asked.  His 1st impression was that he was being approached by a busker (I had a Sex Pistols T-Shirt and a guitar about my person, so it was not an unreasonable assumption! 🙂 Once he realised I was an MBA tutor and not a stalker, he invited me to share a taxi to the University, giving me a unique opportunity to help him prepare for the audience he faced that evening and also to share the books.  He kindly agreed to have a read in between everything else he does and I was delighted to have met him on a 1:1 basis rather than in the hustle and bustle of a busy event.  To hear Evan Davis’ inaugural lecture click on the links – LECTURE and Q&A.  Here’s a picture of us at the lecture later on.

Rock’n’Roll Economics – at the Professorial Lecture

Check out Punk Rock People Management.   The book recently overtook Dave Ulrich, Gary Hamel and the usual HR Gurus, having hit No 1 on Amazon in management and HR books.

Speaking of Dragons Den – I leave you with this mashup by the BBC on Steve Jobs:

Oops I did it again – Britney Spears and learning companies

I commented on the concept of a learning company in my posts on Lady Gaga and David Bowie recently.  The idea of a learning company is a company which learns faster than its competitors and speed of new product / service delivery is vital in today’s business world.  Many academics, such as Peter Senge, Chris Argyris and Peter Senge have commented on this idea, which Britney Spears unwittingly stumbled upon in her classic hit “Oops, I did it again”.  Let’s see Ms Spears in action:

In the context of business, “oops I did it again” refers to the tendency of businesses to repeat themselves, sometimes in the face of compelling evidence telling them to change course.  Organisational learning can mean several things:

Single loop learning – Where we keep existing values and introduce new behaviours – this is often dubbed ‘continuous improvement’, where we look for better ways to do existing things.

Double loop learning – A fundamental reassessment of the way we operate – often more radical and therefore even more difficult.

Companies find it intensely difficult to institute learning at an organisation wide level, be it single or double loop learning.  Marks and Spencer nearly went out of business through having such a strong culture that it did not learn from its customers.  Manifestations of this included a refusal to accept credit card payments for many years and their disastrous initial expansion into Europe.  On the other hand, Toyota have based much of their growth in recent years on behaving as an organisation that learns, alongside other approaches such as lean thinking.  This has given them an incredible edge compared with their competitors.  I have just come back from giving a keynote on this very topic at the 7th International HR Leadership Conference in Athens on this topic, which is central to a turnaround in the way in which businesses operate in the new world order.  I also met Evan Davis from the BBC programme Dragons’ Den last week, where we discussed the need for some new thinking if we are to create a sustainable turnaround in the economy and I shall post separately on this topic soon.

Lessons from Britney:  Don’t repeat yourself.  Learn and adapt.

I have scoured Britney Spears back catalogue for other songs that have a business leadership lesson in them and, frankly, I have failed.  “My perogative”, “Everytime”, “Toxic” – not one transferable business lesson, unless someone can spot something I have missed.  So, I have no particular reason for including the video of “Baby one more time”, except for its own value!

p.s. My new book ‘Punk Rock People Management – A no-nonsense guide to hiring, inspiring and firing staff’ is available FREE via the Punk Rock People Management webpage.   A print and e-book version are also available at PUNK PM.  Britney Spears gets a mention as an honorary punk rocker in the book, even though she is not one.

HR without all the boll...cks - Photo courtesy of Lindsay Wakelin Photography

Finally, let’s hear a Louis Armstrong mashup of Britney’s masterpiece: