These Foolish Things

We’re throwing a party on April Fools’ Day to formally mark the release of my 7th book for Bloomsbury Publishing plc, at Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Money Lounge in London. I’d like to invite you all to attend.  It’s FREE but booking is essential via 0207 439 8802.

I will be joined by Professor Adrian Furnham from University College London. Adrian is author of 90 books, an eminent psychologist and writer for the Sunday Times on everything from dating to the dark side of climbing the corporate ladder. He will be interviewing me around “Leading Innovation, Creativity and Enterprise”.

May the Creative Force be with you ...

May the Creative Force be with you …

Since it’s April Fool’s Day, Adrian and myself will be discussing aspects of creativity, playfulness and tomfoolery, served up in a heady cocktail with some music to lighten the afternoon. Sir Richard Branson knows that a happy workplace is one where people have fun whilst getting the job done and this session will tickle your funny bones as well as carrying some serious messages about leadership, innovation and creativity at work.

Professor Adrian Furnham - he's no fool

Professor Adrian Furnham – he’s no fool

Booking is essential – Give the team a call on 0207 439 8802.

 

Women Rock

Check this article out from my friend Share Ross, best known as the bass player of female rock band Vixen. In the article she makes a comparison between dysfunctional teams and ones that know how to work, learn and play together.

 

Click to view Share's article

Click to view Share’s article

I like Share’s definition of a rockstar as someone who has aligned their passion and purpose, is authentic – the real deal etc.  This is far away from popular notions of rockstars as self-obsessed egotists and Share blows away some of the myths in this area.

Check Share’s work out at her website Share Ross.  And here’s her latest post “Brother can you spare a dime“. Here’s a clip of her work as a rock n roll star rather than a rock n roll coach:

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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.

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Is this the real life, or is this just fantasy?

A few months back, I casually went to a networking event, got talking to a chap who said that they worked in the music business as a recording engineer.  We chatted on for a while, eventually I asked:

“Oh, have you worked on any records that I’d know of?”

Well, the last record I worked on is a bit old now – 40 years in fact” he replied

“What was that then?” I enquired

Bohemian Rhapsody” he casually replied

I pinched myself and asked “Is this the real life, or is this just fantasy?”

Turns out that this guy also produced or engineered records for The Kinks, Rush, Deep Purple, Toyah, Yes, Jack Bruce, Hawkwind, Sooty and a very long list of great acts from the 1960’s and 70’s. We got talking about the gentle art of working with people, some of whom have very fixed ideas about how they wanted things done and who sometimes had less than ideal personalities or, at least, egos that were too big for the room. We shared a connection in terms of my friend Bill Nelson, who also worked with Roy Thomas Baker, Queen’s producer. The conversation flowed on and on …

I’ll be talking with Barry Ainsworth at the Virgin Money Lounge in London on FRIDAY February 26th from 3 – 4.30 pm. Book your place NOW via 0207 439 8802. Beyond that, book us for an in company masterclass.

Whether it's a night at the Opera or "we're going down the pub" we can offer you an unforgettable experience

Whether it’s a night at the Opera or “we’re going down the pub” we can offer you an unforgettable experience

Of course these skills are entirely transferrable to the world of “Brain Based Enterprises”, where intellect must be cultivated, facilitated, directed but not squashed. As a result of this, we’re now able to offer a joint masterclass where you will learn from a master of getting things done with volatile and sometimes precocious talents. Should you really wish to make the event unforgettable, we can combine this with a performance of Queen’s material with Patti Russo, long term singing partner of Meatloaf and songstress with Queen and Cher

What’s it like working with Mercurial people? Find out by booking us for a masterclass

The Show Must Go On - with Patti Russo

The Show Must Go On – with Patti Russo

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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.

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Improvising into 2016

Improvisation and adaptiveness

My background as a scientist instilled curiosity and the understanding that most of life is a series of experiments. It has been very good for my life as a musician and even better now as a business owner in an age of disruptive change. In a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) business environment, life in a business requires perpetual change and experimentation to find new focal points. This is a subtle but important difference than a “random walk” which can leads to fad surfing and a lack of consolidation of your value. Improvisation and adaptation have been invaluable skillsets, through one of the deepest recessions for many decades. In the last year or so, some of the results are beginning to show from what I did when there was not much to do in terms of paid activity during those times.

Joining Dots

People tell me that much of my longevity as a business comes down to joining the dots between people, passions and purposes. After winning a prize from Sir Richard Branson for my work on leadership last year, this has flourished, through some deliberation and a bit of luck, into writing for Virgin, gaining an interview with Richard for my new book with Bloomsbury and, more recently running events, which blend business excellence with music in Branson’s Virgin Money Lounges, giving me the good fortune to work alongside Class A rock stars and discover their insights into business, life and the universe. I have also forged a partnership with the awesome Ted Coiné (awesome is not a word that I am drawn to as a sober Brit), but Ted does deserve this tag with his exclusive network Open for Business, which brings together 50 thought leaders around the globe as co-collaborators.

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Restarting the engines

This year has finally been one when a number of businesses have started again to use the services of external people after many years of simply treading water whilst people halted projects or suspended the use of outside people to contain costs. We’ve been fortunate to deliver a range of projects from business reviews, facilitated strategy summits to leadership and innovation conferences for companies as diverse as FujiFilm, MSD, University College London, Bentley and Roche in the UK, Ireland, Italy, Greece, Denmark, Germany and Poland. I was also surprised to receive requests for consultancy projects from The Welsh Assembly, Renault-Nissan and Alstom Transport during the year.

Private joys

I believe that we work best when we do what we love. In my case that means occasionally doing things that my colleagues tell me are dream jobs. Amongst the private joys I’ve had in 2015, I’d mention these:

1. Taking BBC Business correspondent Robert Peston to a P-Funk concert with George Clinton and subsequently writing him a song for his departure from the BBC in support of Cancer Research UK. Check “Pestonomics” out here:

2. Interviewing John Mayall, the Godfather of the Blues, Prince’s sax player, Marcus Anderson and Prince’s first lady, Sheila E, about flow, improvisation, music and a range of other topics. I was delighted to find that Sheila had previously seen my book “Sex, Leadership and Rock’n’Roll” – just an incredible result from delivering a copy of the book to Prince some 8 years ago and proof positive of the value of networking. Check Sheila’s interview out here:

3. Performing on stage at London’s Borderline with Bernie Tormé, Ozzy Osbourne and Ian Gillan’s guitarist. Bernie was extremely kind in crediting me for having contributed to the reinvention of his career alongside Arthur Brown and Ginger Wildheart, a great honour and a privilege for someone who takes no prisoners. Here’s the 3 minute rehearsal of his song “Party’s Over”:

4. A great joy was recording four songs as a tribute to my good friend Bill Nelson, who has inspired the likes of Kate Bush, David Bowie, Brian Eno, Brian May at al. Bill has been a constant source of inspiration and wisdom for over 40 years of my life and remains to this day a permanent flame when the lights go out from time to time. Check out the Be-Bop Deluxe song “Crying to the Sky”, which was itself an homage to Jimi Hendrix. Also one of my earliest musical influences from Bill’s band Be-Bop Deluxe “Adventures in a Yorkshire Landscape”, written about Bill’s home area. Recording these songs was not an idle musical adventure. Through my advert for musicians, the project introduced me to Robert Craven, Virgin author and business speaker, also a Bill Nelson nut. I had already known of Robert through his work at The Director’s Centre but we had not met. To misquote Be-Bop Deluxe, the meeting was “Made In Heaven” and Robert and I are planning some collaborations for 2016.

5. I was fortunate to have played a small part in helping Patti Russo reinvent her career in the PME (Post Meatloaf Era). I enjoyed her performances with Spike Edney and the SAS band immensely but the high point was seeing her perform solo at The Opera House at Buxton where she gave a spine tingling performance of her song “One Door Opens”.

Public disappointments

The VUCA environment of the last few years have seen more window shoppers than usual and turbulence has just more or less cancelled much of my work for 2016, due to a merger at Pfizer-Allergan, an internal reorganisation and a persistent timewaster, who shall go un-named at the moment, since I am presently trying to mediate over the matter. No matter how old I get, I have not yet invented a foolproof way to spot fools in advance of them fooling me into giving my time for free. Hey ho, I guess that the alternative is to develop greater resilience!

My biggest mistake in 2015 was when I was approached by a chap called Mike Waterton, who rolled up in a Bentley seeking advice on how to transform his career from the boss of a recruitment agency into a noted author and speaker. I saw no reason to doubt his credentials (My wife tells me I trust everyone!) A while later, he told me he was unable to pay for the services I had provided as his business had gone into liquidation. Later on, he was accused in a local newspaper of pimping out his 25 year old girlfriend at a hotel in Kent! I generally consider myself to be a good judge of character, but I guess you never can tell … ! The FBI (Foolish Businessman Indicator) would have come in handy! It’s the first bad debt I have had in 21 years of business and I cannot understand how I did not spot the alarm bells earlier. It turns out that Mike is the victim of the seductive argument that you can have everything you want in life, as suggested in the book “The Secret” and beautifully parodied in “Family Guy” when Brian the dog decides to turn himself into a personal development guru and writes a book called “Wish It, Want It, Do It“:

FG

Click on the picture to see an excerpt of this brilliant piece of satire on The Law of Attraction

As a result of becoming indoctrinated by “The Secret” Mike bought the Bentley without realising that he would bankrupt his business in the process. His wife then left him after he acquired a young girl that appeared to come with the car. Lots of other people lost their jobs and earnings as a result of his self-obsessed strategy, informed by one of his mantras – “Think only of Yourself”, which is morally bankrupt and which bankrupted him and others who his life connected with. It’s not what I advised him to do and I’m disappointed that (a) he was economical with the truth about his situation and (b) that I was not able to persuade him to take a different course of action. I’d cautioned him about his strategy, suggesting that he built on his strengths rather than attempting to build a business on someone else’s brand, where he had no authority platform to operate from. Unfortunately, my advice turned out to be correct, but he also took advice from his girlfriend, who encouraged him to reach for the stars. A clear case of what my Mancunian wife calls “Fur Coat, No Knickers”.

Clearly I had little to offer in terms of professional coaching when matched against sex ... one of life's professional disappointments

Clearly I had little to offer in terms of professional coaching when matched against sex … one of life’s professional disappointments

Hopes and fears

“I made it through the wilderness, yeah I made it through” – Madonna

Having come through the recession over 8 years, I come out of it having refined what I do, branded it, become much better networked and with a range of artefacts to show for my efforts, the most precious one of which is a major new book called “Leading Innovation, Creativity and Enterprise” for Bloomsbury which I’m very excited about.

Of course, I am 8 years older into the bargain and this occasionally worries me as young things can see such people as irrelevant in a workplace that values apps over application and wisdom. To survive in business in an adaptive environment requires improvisation, curiosity and the willingness to learn new skills without becoming distracted by every shiny new thing that passes you by. As an improvising musician scientist and business owner I feel up for the challenge …

Wishing you a happy and prosperous 2016.

Peter

 

Making better decisions that stick

Introducing the wonderful Dawna Jones from Vancouver.  Dawna is CEO of From Insight to Action, a change management consultancy which helps individuals, teams and organisations escape from tramline thinking that can become embedded into business cultures. She is author of Decision Making for Dummies and writes for The Huffington Post.

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Click on the picture to view the book on Amazon

Dawna kindly interviewed me for as part of her online interview series “The Evolutionary Provocateur podcast”, hosted by Management Issues. Take a listen.

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Click the image to listen to the interview

She says of change management:

“Over a decade ago, I was facilitating an organizational change initiative which made a lurch forward only to settle back as incremental change. Instantly, I realized that business decision makers and underlying beliefs in the culture weren’t adapting fast enough to match the accelerating ecological, climate and social change. Ten years of research into the science and spirit of human performance (and complex systems) gave me greater insight into how to work with the unknown to create greater creativity and resilience in companies and leaders at every level. Brain science tells us that decisions fall into repetitive ruts unless you actively introduce diverse opinions, reflect to learn from assumptions or take other steps to see from many levels and broaden perspective.  Advanced skills to deepen personal and organizational awareness along with simple principles allow greater functionality in complexity. Providing the learning environment to deepen skills personally and collectively is a personal passion of mine.

Dawna

Click on the image to move from Insight to Action

I asked Dawna for some insights into her work:

Making Better Decisions

Peter : What are the hallmarks of companies that make great decisions?

Dawna : They tap into both their intuitive intelligence and their collective intelligence. Transparency and trust are central to providing a growth oriented decision making environment where customers and employees contribute to providing the multiple feedback input required to stay alert to changing developments.

They take time out from being busy to reflect and gain perspective. Without that there is limited to no capacity for foresight – to see what’s coming ahead.

They flex their thinking to fit the situation rather than applying analytical thinking for every situation.

They are highly networked, consequently can keep pace with emerging change.

Peter : I love the idea of using their own intelligence and that of others. This triangulates a complex decision, leading to the best possible outcome rather than the lowest common denominator if done with skill. In a busy world, reflection becomes even more important if there is to be foresight.

Making decisions stick

Peter : As we know, it’s one thing making good decisions, quite another to take other people with you. How do you ensure that people follow their decisions? Why is an outsider essential?

Dawna : A decision not followed is a decision not inspired by a shared common goal. When a decision is forced from the top down, and it has a negative impact on those implementing it, it stands to reason that it won’t inspire the energy required for action. An outsider brings in an objective take on the underlying dynamics so the invisible factors, like cultural beliefs in conflict with the direction, can be identified and reviewed rather than dealing with the undertow created when you’re trying to do something different and it conflicts with what’s always been done before. Most often, this kind of conflict surfaces in behaviour and the temptation is to fix the behaviour. It’s a much deeper dynamic going on that someone not immersed in the environment can detect quickly using intuitive insight.

The importance of reflection and incubation

The importance of reflection and incubation – extract from Decision Making for Dummies – click on the picture to find the book on Amazon

Peter : The concept of undertow resonates strongly with me, reminding me of the lyrics to the song by Suzanne Vega, although clearly the song places a different meaning on the word undertow …. but do we really need an excuse to play a Suzanne Vega song!?:-) However, it made me think that the more leaders push, sometimes this produces an equal and opposite reaction from those being ‘pushed’. Leaders must learn to engage and develop collaboration if they want to ‘pull’ instead of ‘push’. There are only a few circumstances when push is of value such as turnarounds and crises. Even then, smart leaders understand that great decisions may come from those closest to the action. You remind me that the outsider sees things that others don’t see and much earlier, allowing an enterprise to correct its decision before it has happened.

Music and the mind

Peter : We talked a lot in the interview you kindly did about music and the mind. Share some of your thinking on the role which music can play in shaping our lives.

Dawna : To me, music is the song of the soul celebrating life in its many emotions. With respect to business, it can serve as a metaphor as you do so well in your work and it can also serve to bring calm to a stressed high pressure environment. Mark Romero’s music, for instance, has the effect of calming and bringing your body into physical coherence meaning you’re able to access your alpha (creativity) state and also gain harmony between the mind and the heart. Certain classical music is used by more enlightened education systems to help students remember their work without needing to exercise recall – That helps those of us have the ability to recall or memorise. None of this has to be set at high volume to work. Low volume works just fine. Music gives us the chance to enrich our creativity (same part of the brain) and stimulate expression.

Work with Dawna and myself on learning at the speed of sound

Work with Dawna and myself on learning at the speed of sound

Peter : I can certainly attest to the memory value of music, having used it over many years to help people excel across a range of circumstances from passing exams to locking in important thoughts into long term memory. I have never visited a country yet where people cannot more or less recite the words to Bohemian Rhapsody, now 40 years old. A pity they don’t always know so much about their company’s mission statements!!:-) Having just watched a Queen documentary on television last night it reminded me of attending Hyde Park to see them in 1976 – one truly amazing concert.

Contact Dawna via From Insight to Action if you are interested in making better business decisions. Dawna and I are available for joint projects into 2016 around the world, combining thoughtful Organisation Development with masterclass inputs that blend business ideas with music for maximum engagement and application.

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About the Blogger

Peter Cook leads Human Dynamics and The Academy of Rock. Check out our books on Amazon which make excellent seasonal gifts. We are currently booking launch events for Leading Innovation, Creativity and Enterprise, a major new book for 2016 with Bloomsbury, featuring exclusive interviews with Sir Richard Branson and Sir James Dyson.

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Parallel Lines

I was delighted to speak with Paul Kwiecinski, Co-Owner of “Face The Music” recently. It seems we have been developing our respective businesses along parallel lines, on opposite sides of The Atlantic Ocean in what could be described as a piece of simultaneous invention.

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Face The Music shows surprising parallels with our own work at The Academy of Rock and we have been running our respective businesses for similar lengths of time. Great minds literally have thought alike in what is known as simultaneous innovation. Paul explains the concept:

Face The Music is a collaboration between great musicians and experienced organizational consultants who bring a uniquely powerful mix to clients’ programs and events. And while we are definitely entertaining, we are not mere entertainment. Rather our music events are a powerful catalyst for teamwork and organizational change — using a variety of musical genres as our toolkit — to help organizations become higher performing, more innovative, and just plain cooler places to work.

Perhaps an easy way to understand Face The Music’s work is to see it through  the eyes of a customer, in this case CNN News:

Paul has an impressive client list who have chosen to work with him because they seek greater engagement, authentic relations between coworkers, real organisational improvements and so on. As he points out, it’s not just entertaining. It’s about engaging people’s heads, hearts and souls in their work as most serious enterprises understand.

At face value, it may seem odd to be writing about a potential competititor. It is not. This blend of music and experienced organisation consultants is an extremely hard act to pull off as I know through some 15 + years of development of the approach. We’re hoping that more people will get to learn of our work and choose this over a beige approach to business and organisation development. Both Paul and I travel the world and hope to collaborate at some stage. Come join us and Face The Music.

Check our post on Seasick Steve as well. Speaking of NYC, here’s another product of New York, from the album Parallel Lines:

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For more on Music and Business grab your copy of The Music of Business.

Click on the picture to check the book out

Management Talk

Wesley Gransden is the host of a new series called Management Talk and I was honoured to be his first guest the other week. Click on the image to hear his first show:

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We had a different kind of chat about the good, bad and ugly of management and leadership, including the following themes:

  1. How do you manage your career?
  2. What have management and music got in common?
  3. Why does cognitive dissonance matter in business?
  4. How can you get the best out of people that are different to you?
  5. What can we learn from Sir Richard Branson and Clive Sinclair about innovation?
  6. What is mathematical creativity?  How can we use it?
  7. Is everyone creative?
  8. How do leaders use emotional intelligence to create great results?
  9. What is a Brain Based Enterprise and who is doing this?
  10. What’s in the new edition of The Music of Business?

Listen in to Management Talk, grab a copy of the book and contact us to meet for a free consultation in London or by Skype. Later in the year we will be back on the show with our version of Desert Island Management Discs …

Click on the picture to check the book out

Click on the picture to check the book out