Innovation Excellence – Calling all firestarters

This week, I have a great opportunity for writers, musicians and business leaders.  I have just been appointed “Rock’n’Roll Innovation Editor” for a US based Global Innovation Company called Innovation Excellence.  The company is run by Julie Anixter, who worked with Tom Peters and Seth Godin amongst other leading business thinkers around the world.  Innovation Excellence is the most popular innovation website in the world with over 10 000 readers per day and counting.  As part of my job there, I am planning interviews with people in the coming year such as Ahmet Ertegun’s biographer, CEO of Atlantic Records, Bill Nelson, Professor Adrian Furnham, Bernie Torme, Sir Richard Branson and Sir Paul McCartney.  We’re starting shortly with a piece about the enigma that is Richard Strange, leader of proto-punk pop-art group The Doctors of Madness and perhaps punk’s godfather,

So, what then does the Rock’n’Roll Innovation Editor do?  Good question!  You don’t see many RNR Innovation Editors on the staff at the Financial Times or the New York Herald Tribune!  My job is to interview, write or commission articles with any of the following types of people:

  • Innovative musicians – Names that spring to mind include Robert Fripp, Lady Gaga, Brian Eno, Madonna – people who have either innovated within music or are gamechangers in the music industry.
  • Innovation leaders – Especially those who get the idea that innovative leadership requires both discipline and improvisation – Virgin, Toyota, First Direct, Google, 3M, The Eden Project spring immediately to mind.
  • Innovation authors and academics – Again those who have a ‘Rock’n’Roll outlook’ on the subject – Brian Clegg, Tom Peters, Adrian Furnham et al are on my list of suspects here.

Innovation Excellence is also open to sponsors who wish to help build the best educational resource in the world for innovation.  Contact me via e-mail at peter@humdyn.co.uk to see what’s on offer.

So, in the warped words of the hymn “Come all ye faithful … and also a healthy dose of firestarters …”  Drop me a line and let’s see if we can create a guest article or interview.

Speaking of firestarters, time to finish with a bit of that…

Deep Purple in Rock: Improvisation and discipline in Business

Deep Purple In Rock

The hard rock band Deep Purple are responsible for millions of young boys camping out in music shops trying to play the riff to ‘Smoke on the Water‘.  At the age of 14 I used to sit at the top of the stairs at home in the darkness trying to figure out the riff with my Hofner Futurama guitar and 10 Watt Zenta amp, until my mum would shout me to come down to get my fish finger sandwiches.  Aside from these problems, Deep Purple offer us a great example of improvisation and discipline in action in the context of a rock outfit.  The Mark II incarnation of the band is generally considered to be perhaps the definitive lineup, but also the most volatile.  Much of the conflict within Deep Purple arose from Ritchie Blackmore, their phenomenal virtuoso guitarist and moody maverick.  Check out Deep Purple Mark II’s work when jamming here:

In this extract from ‘Mandrake Root’ we see the art of improvisation within a disciplined structure as Blackmore sends musical instructions (using his arms as a baton ! ) to the keyboard player Jon Lord, to repeat and develop certain lines (This is particularly obvious around 48 seconds onwards).  He also sends orders to the rhythm section of Ian Paice and Roger Glover with respect to starts and stops within the music (around 1 minute 50 seconds).  Blackmore’s signs are perhaps more aggressive than those used by Prince to change direction at short notice within the band :-)  What then are the parallel lessons for business from Deep Purple?   Here’s three to get the discussion started – Please add your own views by commenting on the blog.

1. Innovation in business requires discipline as much as it does creativity:  Creativity to come up with novel strategies; Discipline to execute them, so that ideas turn into profitable innovations.  Companies such as Google, 3M and Innocent may seem to be all about creativity at first glance, but a deeper inspection reveals discipline and structure, even if that structure does not emanate from ‘management’ in all cases.  Giving people 20% of their time to work on speculative projects is the business equivalent of a free form jam within Space Truckin’, Lazy, Mistreated and many other pieces of Deep Purple’s repertoire.

2. It requires extremely strong leadership and a compelling shared vision to hold diverse people together.  To encourage a company that continuously learns / adapts and improvises into the future requires leadership that is precise on the destination, yet loose on the journey.  We’ve seen this point before in my blog posts on Led Zeppelin and Prince.

3. Conflict will occur where there is diversity / divergence.  It must be handled properly if progress is to be made.  Ultimately Blackmore’s maverick behaviour proved too much for the band, especially the singer Ian Gillan, and despite several reunions, the band proved impossible to hold together.  There have been many arguments to suggest that what Deep Purple Mark II needed was a manager who could hold the various personalities together and perhaps some time off from touring.

What else do you consider we can learn from Deep Purple about business, innovation, conflict and so on?  Share your thoughts by making a comment to this blog.

Editor’s postscript:  My thoughts go out to Jon Lord who is currently fighting cancer.  Although I am a guitar player, it was Jon Lord’s innovative organ playing that led to my fanaticism with Deep Purple.  Hoping things progress well.

To finish, here’s another piece by Deep Purple’s Mark II line up, the famous California Jam performance where Ritchie Blackmore destroys several guitars and sets fire to his amplifiers.  I can’t immediately think of a transferable corporate lesson from this sequence but it sure is fun.  Takes me back to my teenage years with the Zenta amp on all the way up and me smashing the guitar into the speaker trying to coax some feedback out of the amp!

For more Heavy Metal Business articles – check SPINAL TAP on project management and LED ZEPPELIN on strategy.  Check out our conferences and events – where we extract business lessons from the Deep Purple classic ‘Smoke on the Water’ amongst many other things.  Come along to one of our ‘Monsters of Rock Business’ events, featuring Bernie Torme, who played guitar for Ian Gillan.   Take a look at one of these as featured on Bloomberg TV.

Our new book “The Music of Business” is available to order at AMAZON.CO.UK, AMAZON.COM, and KINDLE.  To sample the book have a look at a sneak preview or visit the book WEBSITE.

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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 peter@humdyn.co.uk

Monsters of Rock – Bernie Tormé

Last night I had the great pleasure of spending an evening in the pub with Bernie Tormé, lead guitarist for Ozzy Osbourne, Dee Snider of Twisted Sister and Ian Gillan of Deep Purple. We have a superb event coming up with Bernie soon – Take a look at Monsters of Rock Business and some of Bernie’s work:

As well as his high profile work with these monsters of rock, Bernie is a talented songwriter and recording artist.  As well as a good chat about Prince, Bill Nelson, Gary Moore and other musicians, we spent some time exploring music – business parallels:

1. How the creative process works in music and how that translates into businesses looking to innovate as a source of long term advantage – from songwriting to inventive business thinking.  We explored this issue at a global science conference with the Pfizer a while back.

2. How working with rock stars with massive egos has a parallel lesson for people attempting to lead creative / precocious people in intelligent / artistic businesses.  This was a key discussion item at London Business School’s strategy summit recently.

3. Improvisation and creativity in music and business – Bernie’s life has been about adding amazing guitar work to polish other star’s performances.  He works largely intuitively to do this.  How can you tap into a natural intuitive flow?  How do organisations such as Google, Imperial College and 3M encourage ‘intuition to order’?

4. Presentation, performance and impact – You have only one chance to make a great first impression on stage with Ozzy!   See picture below.

Master of the universe

5. Dealing with conflict and trouble at work – Rock’n’Roll is an excellent arena for learning such skills.  Some of Bernie’s stories here are x-rated and outside the scope of a public view!

6. Parallel lessons from the music business for business leaders – contracts, money, changes of plans and so on.  I have had personal experience of ‘Rock’n’Roll accounting’ having sponsored a world tour with cult punk rocker John Otway and lost my shirt on the enterprise.

These days Bernie divides his time between his recording studios and work with his band GMT.  He is also available for business events and conferences where representatives of your business get to interview him on a range of topics.  Bernie also provides cameo performances of his work if an ‘aftershow’ element is required at a conference or event.

On stage Bernie is a mighty force to be reckoned with.  Yet, in the pub, he is a thoughtful raconteur with fantastic insights and stories about the crazy world of rock’n’roll.  Contact me here or via MUSICAL EXPERIENCES if you would like to book him for an Academy of Rock experience!

Finally, here’s Bernie playing a solo with his band GMT: