Just Like A Woman

I’m proud to know Jordan Gray, who performed on BBC’s “The Voice” last night.  Jordan is a massive talent both in terms of her songwriting, musicality and performance.  I was privileged and humbled to share a stage with Jordan at Aaron Stone’s “Spontaneous Combustion” last year.

Here is her performance of “Just Like A Woman” on the show:

But Jordan’s superb showcase for The Voice missed out on her huge songwriting and musical talents. Just check this amazing piece “Corridors” out under her name “Tall Dark Friend“. This was one of the songs she performed at Spon Com and it blew me away even more live than the video can convey:

In case you are wondering who the singer is in the above video, Jordan made a principled decision to change gender a couple of years back. I have some understanding of the courage required to take such a decision through my good friend Hilary who also did this some years back. Hilary and I wrote a song together called “No Dick’s as Hard as my Life”, to reflect some of the abuse she took during the change. I also took a beating from some young solders in 1983, whilst walking along the high street with my best friend from school Dennis Pearce. Dennis was a flamboyantly dressed homosexual at a time when pink trousers were not considered an acceptable form of attire by some . I took the beating instead of Dennis because I had not learned to run as fast as he had … I spent several hours in hospital as a result ! 🙂 oh well … soldiers will be soldiers but it’s a pity they have to take their work home …

Coming back to the music, comparisons are invidious, but I would rank Jordan Gray alongside talents such as Prince, Lady Gaga, Paloma Faith and Sia. Her performance on The Voice was great but you cannot imagine the incredible combination of piano playing, singing, rapping, voice manipulation and performance skills that Jordan possesses just from her 3 minute showcase.

A Tall Dark Friend - click to connect with Jordan Gray

A Tall Dark Friend – click to connect with Jordan Gray

Jordan

Fade to Gray …

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Peter Cook leads Human Dynamics and The Academy of Rock. Book him for your next interactive motivational keynote or longer masterclass on subjects such as Leadership, Creativity, Innovation and Change. His new book Leading Innovation and Enterprise is released on February 25th.  Order it now on Amazon.

 

Confessions on a Dance Floor – Anatomy of an Entrepreneur

Confessions on a dance floor - The Royal Institute of Great Britain - a superb venue for science  ... and dancing

Confessions on a dance floor – The Royal Institute of Great Britain – a superb venue for science … and dancing

I attended Entrepreneur Country’s forum recently and was so impressed that I decided to write a post on some of the lessons learned.  Held in the auspicious surroundings of the Royal Institute of Great Britain where the 1st Industrial Revolution began, I heard a lot about how entrepreneurship will reboot the UK plc.  Although I started life as a scientist and have had 18 years teaching MBA’s and doing business improvement, music has been a constant though my life.  I could not help but notice just how well the Royal Institute of Great Britain’s lecture theatre could transform into a dance floor, given the somewhat mythical arrival of Madonna as one of the guest lecturers! 🙂  Oddly enough, the day was characterised by entrepreneurs telling real life stories of their hopes, fears, successes and failures, hence my title Confessions on a Dance Floor.  Cue the music:

Hung up

Just like Madonna’s fitness video, a lot of the discussion was centred around what entrepreneurs do to avoid burnout.  Ed Bussey of iTrigga was a prime example, having come to the conference after an all night vigil at hospital on the occasion of his wife giving birth!   He did however point out the importance of pressing the OFF button from time to time to avoid the possibility of crash and burn entrepreneurship.

If what you are doing isn't working, STOP in the name of doing something different

If what you are doing isn’t working, STOP in the name of doing something different

Others talked of rituals and routines such as working out in the gym, taking forced holidays, running the London Marathon, going to the North Pole (that’s hardly chilling out!) and so on.  Seemingly obvious advice, yet not always taken by busy entrepreneurs.  Recall the post on STOPPING.

Like a Virgin

Several speakers gave witness to the importance of maintaining naivety if you are to succeed as an entrepreneur.  Madonna’s contribution to this area is via her blockbuster hit “Like A Virgin”, which translates to the need to treat each new business situation like it’s the very first time, or at least to see it with fresh eyes.  In particular Sir Will Sargent of Framestore painted a picture of the importance of intuition, creativity and the ability to remain adaptive and flexible as your company grows.

If I stand still for 12 months, I will be out of business 12 months later

Express Yourself

Perhaps the personification of Madonna’s hit record about expression was the opening addresses by Julie Meyer and Dr Mike Lynch.   Julie presented her ideas about entrepreneurship clearly, concisely and without apology for wanting to create an enterprise economy, which produces both economic and social benefit.   Business gets enough hard knocks and we need to see business as an engine of improvement, rather than an evil empire as it is frequently portrayed by Governments and a self-riteous public sector, who sometimes try to interfere in business and enterprise.  Mike Lynch extended Julie’s strident start to the day by giving us some home truths on entrepreneurship:

 “Without good marketing you can have something amazing and no one will know.  Marketing is not cheating

Avoid the myth of doing things properly

Mark Hoffmann of Oxygen Finance added another subtle dimension to Madonna’s title.  It would be too easy to assume that ‘expressing yourself’ was the realm of extroverts.  Mark calmly pointed out that expression can come from an introvert stance:

I’m quiet but very driven

Like a Prayer

Stephen Linnecar suggested that we gotta have FAITH – Not an allusion to George Michael, but the summary of his presentation which focused on five factors which he regarded as key to success as an entrepreneur: Future, Attitude, Improvisation, Timing and Help.  You had to be there to get the detail behind these buzzwords.  Picking up on one of these characteristics, improvisation featured strongly throughout the day, a point that resonated personally with me, having taught creativity, improvisation and innovation for the Open University MBA for 18 years.

Hair

What impressed me most of all about the speakers at the event was a real and unusual sense of authenticity.  Truths were told about successes.  Much more importantly, we gained an insight into mistakes and outright failures.  It’s much more important for an entrepreneur to learn from their mistakes than their successes and many speakers were candid about their regrets.  We learned the perils of not owing up to mistakes via Peter Whent’s wonderful story of “United Breaks Guitars”, when a musician could not get any satisfaction from complaining to the airline after they broke his guitar.  He resorted to a viral youtube campaign and United’s share price plummeted as his youtube figures climbed exponentially:

Lady Gaga’s vulnerabilities show up in her song called Hair, which she performed unplugged and therefore conceptually ‘naked’ in her appearance on the Paul O’Grady show.  I feel it’s entirely appropriate to add Lady Gaga into a piece about Madonna, as she had clearly stood on the shoulders of giants in developing Madonna’s music into her own unique brand.  Listen to the words of “Hair” to see behind the makeup, pizazz and lighting to the soul of a true artist:

So, there we have it.  Five lessons for Entrepreneurs from Madonna and Lady Gaga:

  1. Hung Up – Don’t get hung up by flogging yourself to death – use the OFF switch
  2. Like a Virgin – Treat each day like it’s the first time to remain fresh
  3. Express Yourself – Be clear, bold and concise in your communications.
  4. Like a Prayer – Have faith in yourself and others that can help you realise your dreams
  5. Hair – Be aware of your vulnerabilities, successes, failures and learn

 

Alive and Kicking

In recent weeks, I’ve been doing a number of live book launch events, some shorter, others longer.  I’ve attached the slide deck from one of these and have expanded on some of the points in the slides below

AC / DC and Strategy

1. AC / DC have surpassed their peers by ‘sticking to the knitting’ – developing a strong brand and reinforcing it through everything they do.  They have not ‘crossed genres’, wandering into hip hop or jazz fusion.  It’s rare for businesses and individuals to be able to keep doing the same thing and keep their customers in the current age.

2. When they have changed, they have built a strong bridge between the future and the past, which has allowed them to keep their audience and gain new followers.  This is a very transferable lesson for businesses and individuals.

Deep Purple, Creativity and Innovation

3. Innovation needs discipline and structure.  People think that creativity is enough for innovation to take place, but it takes discipline and structure to execute an idea.  We see this on stage when Deep Purple were jamming.

4. Innovative teams require strong leadership.  Deep Purple nearly imploded on many occasions due to creative tensions between the band members.

The Beatles and Creativity

5. Find ways to listen to ideas that seem ‘dissonant’ to currently accepted views.  The Beatles were masters of bringing outside influences into the world of pop music.

6. Delay evaluation of ideas for as long as reasonable, so that you can put distance between the novelty and a sober evaluation of the potential feasibility and impact of an idea.

7. Requisite diversity is essential if you are to have an innovative business.  Find ways to resolve tensions that build up by putting different people together, but resist attempts to sidestep conflict.  The creative leader utilises the tension between opposites whilst maintaining a focus on the goal.  The Beatles are an excellent example of this.

Lady Gaga and Innovation

8. Innovate within the familiar range of the customer’s expectation for maximum early impact.  Build on that for long-term sustainability.  Gaga has cleverly built her music on the firm foundations of Madonna and her peers.

9. Stand on the shoulders of giants if you want to innovate.  Be a genuine learning organisation if you want to stay in business for the long term.  What will be interesting is to see what Gaga does next, having established world domination.

10. Use innovative partnerships and joint ventures to enlarge your market share in ways that benefit all.  Choose your partners wisely and in ways that provide genuine win-win benefits.

For more detail on these points, mail me for your copy of The Music of Business.  Tomorrow, I give the final keynote at a large Pharmaceutical Conference – my title is “Innovation Lessons from the Past, Present and Future“.  If you want to perk up your next meeting, conference or keynote with a healthy blend of business thinking plus live demonstrations and the engagement that comes from live participation, give us a call on 07725 927585 or via e-mail peter@humdyn.co.uk

We finish with the title of this blog:

Basic instinct – Intuition in music and business

It’s one thing to be one step ahead.  Quite another to be 30 years ahead.  Bill Nelson has continuously innovated in music, sometimes so far ahead of the wave that he has only been noticed through those who have been influenced by him such as The Kaiser Chiefs, Ambulance Ltd, The Darkness, Foo Fighters et al.

This boxed set “Trial By Intimacy – The Book Splendours” preceded ambient electronica by a a good decade and has just been re-released, having been out of print for many years on Bill’s DIY Cocteau Records label.  The box comprises recordings made by Nelson at his “Echo Observatory” home studio. Comprising some eighty pieces of music, the set is a fine example of Bill Nelson’s grasp of ambient music.

Check out this interview with the gorgeous Mariella Frostrup, which shows Bill Nelson composing material in this genre / period long before anyone owned an i Mac !

“Trial By Intimacy” contains four albums of mostly short ambient pieces of music that will provoke, inspire, question, comfort and challenge your views of what one man with a tape recorder can do in a day.  Part of the charm of this material is that it was composed on primitive equipment in Nelson’s studio above the kitchen in his house.  The instruments Nelson chooses vary from state of the art electronica available at the time to children’s Casio keyboards, plastic woodwind instruments, Marimbas and archive radio extracts.  The contrasts and contradictions between futurama and distant memories, between grown up electronica and childhood musical toys provide the listener with a naïve charm and a connection into the inner soul of the artist.  Many of the pieces were laid down in a native state, without over production and ‘polishing the grooves’ so hard that the artist is drowned in the process.  Bill Nelson is a Yorkshireman – to misquote the bread advert, “Trial By Intimacy” is an album “with nowt taken out”.

Four albums of material that was 20 years ahead of Leftfield, Underworld, Lemon Jelly, Moby et al you get a timepiece of the age via Nelson’s arcane photographs and written words.  So what are the transferable lessons for the business world here?

  • Sometimes your first idea is the best one – on occasion it’s best to go with your basic instinct.
  • Don’t be afraid of childlike approaches to creativity and innovation.  If it feels good, try it.
  • Spot what’s obvious and dare to be different.

We’ll be doing some live improvisation with electronica on Tuesday 13 November at the University of Bedfordshire in our business event for the Chartered Management Institute of The Open University – Riffs and Myths of Leadership – some spaces available for booking now.

Click on the link to book

We will be talking about the event on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire on Monday 22 October at 7.20 pm.  Listen again via The BBC.

Sue Marchant discusses Sex, Leadership and Rock’n’Roll – Monday 22 October 7.20 pm – click on the picture to listen again for a limited period – BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

p.s.  It seems that Lady Gaga‘s World Tour support act Lady Starlight has been using Bill’s music as part of her performance art act.  I’m on the case to get Bill connected.  Watch this space.  Sometimes strange and wonderful things can happen once I get started on a mission …  Be careful, I’m an axe victim …

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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

Punk Rock Business Attitude – Top Ten Punk Rock Business Tips

Punk Rock Attitude – Smarter, faster and more authentic business – Image by Lindsay Wakelin photography http://www.lindsaywakelinphotography.com

Whilst we were preparing for the various media initiatives the other week, the papers, radio and TV wanted me to offer them some punchy (and short of course) punk rock tips for business.   Here’s the ones that got through the press filter on the BBC One News piece with Dolly Parton introducing us – what a coup !

And here’s a few of the rest with some links to previous blog posts.  Granted, they are not all punk rock, but I use the term in it’s widest context 🙂  You can find much more like this in the revised edition of Sex, Leadership and Rock’n’Roll.

1. Bad Romance – Lady Gaga – If you’re having trouble in a work relationship, change what you’re doing, rather than banging your head against the same wall.

2. Like a Virgin – Madonna – To succeed in business, treat each day like its the first time.

3. Knowing me knowing you – Abba – If you want to serve someone really well, find out their wants, needs, whims, foibles, fancies, fantasies, fanaticisms and ensure what you are offering touches the parts that others cannot or dare not reach.

Reasons to be cheerful

4. Reasons to be cheerful – Ian Dury  – Reasons to be cheerful at work include: being listened to; doing things that count; understanding why they matter; being part of something; not having to do pointless tasks; getting meaningful feedback on what you do and so on.

5. Who killed Bambi? – Sex Pistols – Separate conflict over work from conflict over personalities. You can have a good bun fight over a project, but once things are settled, move on and don’t harbour grudges towards the people.

6. I can’t control myself – The Troggs – Creativity without discipline rarely leads to innovation.

7. What do I get? – The Buzzcocks – Pay people well enough, but don’t just focus on pay as the reward for work. This reinforces the conversation about ‘What do I get?’

Walk on the wild side

8. Walk on the wild side – Lou Reed – Encourage mavericks, madonnas and the odd primadonna at work if you want new things to happen.

9. Sexy MF – Prince – Style always wins over substance.  Once you have got your product sorted, go for style every time.

10. I still haven’t found what I’m looking for – U2 – Business needs constant learning and reconnaissance.  If you stop looking and learning, just like Kodak, you may disappear from view.

To finish listen anew to Bad Romance by Lady Gaga for a bit of punk business attitude:

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…

Hopes and Fears 2012

Firstly, may I thank all of you that have been reading the Rock’n’Roll Business Blog through 2011.  We have had a whopping 14 000 views since it started in earnest in June last year.

In terms of 2012, if we are to turn the UK plc round, its going to take every bit of adaptation, learning and innovation.  You may care to reflect on some of the more popular posts of 2011 – Lady Gaga and adaptive strategy, Deep Purple, improvisation and innovation, The Beatles on creativity, Prince on excellence, Britney Spears on becoming a learning society, Hendrix v Clapton on innovation and Personal mastery in business and music – lessons from Jeff Beck, Les Paul and Bill Nelson.

So, what does 2012 hold in store for us?   Well, here’s some views taken in the course of my travels recently, with the themes linked to pop and rock songs of course! 🙂

There is power in a union?

2011 was marked by a resurgence of industrial relations unrest in the UK.  However, the recent public sector strikes was marked not by braziers, banners and protest songs, but by the best shopping day in 2011, as retail sales soared.  I saw people leaving local government picket lines to go to Costa Coffee at 10 am.  Is shopping for Ugg boots and flat screen TV’s the hallmark of the new rebellion?

Can we look forward to more industrial unrest?   From talking with people in local government, it seems that there is still plenty of scope for downsizing and it also appears that quite a few people are basically happy with their pension, so it appears that the current industrial unrest may not develop.  When I talk to my self-employed friends, there appears to be little sympathy with the strikes – as one remarked “Pension, what pension?”  One thing is for sure, in an age of unrest we can expect more performances by proto punk protest singer Billy Bragg:

What’s new pussycat?

During 2011 I met Evan Davis of BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme and Vince Cable, Secretary of State for Business Innovation and Skills.  During our conversations we touched on the vexed question of what we should do to rebuild Britain.  There are no easy answers here and a debate has since been raging on Linkedin over this issue.  There seems to be broad agreement that the UK plc desperately needs more innovation, especially the type that can be exported and that which builds out of our strengths in ways that are hard to copy or appropriate.  At the same time the service sector needs to shrink, whether this is through a smaller public service component to the economy or in service industries that merely consume wealth at a local level – for example tanning rooms and burger bars.  The change is going to be hard to swallow for some.  Doing more of the same will not do, we need to do things differently.  Musically, it’s more a case of ‘What’s new pussycat’ rather than ‘Do the standing still’.

We’ve got a meeting with the Department of Business Innovation and Skills to explore some of the ramifications of the UK’s innovation needs coming up.   More on innovation coming up in future posts.

What are your hopes and fears for 2012?  Post a comment on this blog.

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