The Sting

I was quite unprepared to see Sting in concert last night and overwhelmed by his superb musicianship, performance and width of his musical canon. I confess I had quite forgotten Gordon Sumner’s songwriting skills.  At the age of 66 his voice, playing and projection were in top form, giving all of us hope that age is no barrier to peak performance.

Perhaps the most poignant thing that connects me to Sting and his music is his solid values of human rights, environmental consciousness and sustainability. I was reminded of this through his lyrics and reconnected to my work for Amnesty International which started in the early 1980’s and which he epitomised through his song “They Dance Alone”. Sadly, Sting’s words remain relevant in these troubled times and I hope that our world leaders listen to him and others at such moments:

Convince an enemy, convince him that he’s wrong
Is to win a bloodless battle where victory is long
A simple act of faith
In reason over might
To blow up his children will only prove him right
History will teach us nothing

Hey Mr. Pinochet
You’ve sown a bitter crop
It’s foreign money that supports you
One day the money’s going to stop
No wages for your torturers
No budget for your guns
Can you think of your own mother
Dancin’ with her invisible son

We share the same biology
Regardless of ideology
What might save us, me, and you
Is if the Russians love their children too

And especially his song for the Mothers of the Disappeared (Desaparecidos). This was Sting’s symbolic gesture of protest against the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, whose regime killed thousands of people between 1973 and 1990 … on first hearing this song many years ago, I wept uncontrollably about the unimaginable grief and strength of these mothers. There are no words that adequately convey the meaning of his song so I will let the song do the work itself:

We live once more in troubled times and it seems that our human race is about to forget its humanity. Our ability to learn from history seems limited. Watch the video, conduct your own research into what lies behind the concert that Sting gave and take action for a more humane society …

To finish, here are a few excerpts from Sting’s recent tour including tributes to David Bowie from his son and Prince – I was privileged to attend this. Big thanks to Debbie Poli, MD of Lapel Pin Badges for this opportunity. Debbie makes all the badges that I wear, including orders for the last David Bowie album, Virgin, Star Wars and my very special Prince love symbol badge.

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Peter Cook leads The Academy of Rock and Human Dynamics, offering outstanding keynotes, masterclasses and longer term Business / OD, Coaching and Mentoring. He is author of 7 and a half books on business leadership. Check them out at Amazon.

Listen Without Prejudice – George Michael R.I.P.

I confess I had eschewed white soul music in the early 1980’s, due to being young and too focused on guitars and experimental synthesiser music. I therefore missed the arrival of Wham on the music scene. Sure, I was aware of their music, but carelessly dismissed it as bubblegum pop. Even their studio engineer Chris Porter initially saw Wham as just a teen band. It took a six-week business trip to Jakarta in 1983 and a long weekend in Bali to begin to understand the genius of George Michael. Sitting in a bar in Kuta drinking Emu lager and listening to “Wham Rap”, “Ray of Sunshine” and “Club Tropicana” on almost continual repeat in the bars was enough to hook me. Enough has already been written in the British Tabloid press about the sensational aspects of George Michael’s life and, to be frank, none of it interests me. The real point of an artist’s life is their artistry and it is to this that I am turning in this article.

My first surprise was George Michael’s personal transformation from disco diva to a world acclaimed soul and ballad singer, something which I should have spotted through my close encounter with Wham in Bali but which I somehow missed when his voice was bubble-wrapped in plastic pop music. I first paid attention to Michael’s voice when he produced “A Different Corner”, the beginning of a shift that would take several years to ferment and which was finally consolidated in 1990 when he released “Listen Without Prejudice”, an album whose title seemed for me to cut the ties with pure pop music and which elevated him to an international superstar. Michael refused to have his picture on the album in a principled decision to present the music and not the man.

What is also quite surprising about George Michael is just how his career was built on relatively few music releases.  After the fast and furious output of Wham, Michael only released 5 studio albums in 30 years, even less than that of the perfectionist Kate Bush. This is in contrast with David Bowie, with 27 albums over an extended period and in extreme contrast with Prince, with 39 studio albums and, reputedly with a vault of unreleased material that could last a generation. Notwithstanding court battles with record companies, it seems that George Michael would spend years working on an album until he was satisfied with it.

George Michael offered us object lessons in authenticity and ethics in his work to help educate the world about HIV / AIDS and his humanitarian work in general. A hallmark of great leaders is their ability to retain a sense of who they are by “touching the ground” from time to time. George Michael did this many times, through his private philanthropy, much of which remained a secret until his passing. I was passionately interested in HIV / AIDS through my work as a pharmaceutical scientist in bringing the first treatment to market in record time. Had we known more about this terrible condition earlier, we might still have had Freddie Mercury here today. Aside from his humanitarian work, George Michael was one of the few singers able to step into Mercury’s shoes vocally and in terms of his performance at Freddie’s tribute concert, as is evident in this performance:

The wider music world also recognised Michael’s vocal talents, having performed with Aretha Franklin, Elton John, Ray Charles, Beyonce, Paul McCartney, Whitney Houston and many more. Frank Sinatra even wrote him a letter advising him not to waste his talent.

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At a personal level, the Wham T-Shirt “Choose Life” made as big an impact upon me as any MBA course and eventually informed my decision to leave a very well-paid job and start my own business some 23 years ago. For that phrase alone, I shall be eternally grateful to George Michael.

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At a global level 2016 unleashed so many disruptive forces in the world and George’s words express my hopes for 2017 better than anyone else:

And it’s hard to love, there’s so much to hate

Hanging on to hope

When there is no hope to speak of

And the wounded skies above say it’s much too late

Well maybe we should all be praying for time

George Michael 1963-2016 – You have been loved

Leadership Lessons from Two Virgins

I was approached by David Tait OBE recently to form a speaking partnership. David was with Virgin Atlantic from the very beginning and is acknowledged by Sir Richard Branson as having played a pivotal role in the development of Virgin, marking its progress from an underground office to a global luxury brand.David wrote British Atlantic Airways first business plan, a company that would eventually become Virgin Atlantic. In 1984, Tait became the fledgling airline’s first US employee, reporting directly to Sir Richard Branson. He built and led all the airline’s North American operations including sales, marketing, operations, customer service, finance, IT and HR. He was awarded an OBE in 2001 by Queen Elizabeth II for “services to British aviation in the United States”. Since that time he has worked as a consultant to the airline and travel industry and is a founding partner in the online luxury hotel booking site “Discover Luxury”. David has a veritable treasure trove of stories that offer insights into the ingenious and disruptive strategies of a serial entrepreneur and the Virgin brand. Here are just a few of the stories we share in our work together.

I want to break free … frustration and innovation


In the same way that Sir James Dyson’s breakthrough Dual Cyclone vacuum cleaner was inspired by his frustration with his existing vacuum cleaner, Branson’s decision to start Virgin Atlantic was inspired by a sense of frustration with existing customer service:

“As the head of Virgin Records, Richard Branson was a frequent flier between London and New York. Frustrated by consistently high fares and bad service he was convinced there had to be a better way and so, never one to be hindered by conventional wisdom, decided he would look at starting his own transatlantic airline. He’d learned from his success in the music business that what doesn’t work in theory can sometimes work in practice. But this was different – in a business ruled by Goliaths, starting another airline was a major leap of faith!

But just ‘another airline’ wasn’t what Branson had in mind. With the help of a few former Laker executives and some entertainment industry flair, Virgin crafted a radically different model. Branded Virgin Atlantic Airways – by conservative airline standards a risqué move – the product it offered would be equally disruptive.”

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An obsession with Customer Service – Virgin Upper Class

Being frustrated is insufficient to innovate.  You must go on and do something about it. Some 5127 prototypes later James Dyson produced his first commercially viable Dual Cyclone cleaner. Branson also went past frustration and disrupted the market in a monopoly industry. Find out more about Dyson and Branson in our exclusive interviews with both at “Leading Innovation, Creativity and Enterprise

Screw it, Let’s do it


David recalls the “Screw it, Let’s do it” days of Virgin Atlantic’s maiden flights to New York. One of Richard Branson’s secrets is that he is a master of delegation and that sometimes means he does not always “do the detail”. It turned out that Richard had managed to forget his passport for the first Virgin Atlantic flight to the USA, which technically made him an illegal immigrant! David had to skilfully navigate his way out of the problem …

Brand-son


David also shares insights on how to change the customer experience via the early days of Virgin Atlantic with a fellow alumni of my secondary school, Sir David Frost:

“Those on the inbound trip were party to a flight that could well have made the Guinness World Records book for the most champagne consumed on a single Atlantic crossing.

A smiling David Frost, who was almost a weekly commuter across the Atlantic at the time, told me that it was the first time he’d ever made the entire seven-hour trip standing up with a drink in his hand”.

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Sir David Frost R.I.P.

As well as some great storytelling, together David and I offer deep insights and takeaway concepts presented in ways that last forever. My experience of teaching MBA’s over 20 years has shown that we are missing out on the heart and soul of leadership by just teaching dry concepts. The mnemonic MBA should really stand for Much Bigger Amplifiers rather than More Blooming Analysis! We cover subjects such as

  • Disruptive thinking about your business strategy and practices
  • Converting ideas into sustainable innovations
  • Building and rethinking your brand to face a VUCA world (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous)
  • The “anatomy” of Sir Richard Branson : Why he leads the way he does
  • How does Virgin organise its affairs? – Culturally, structurally and in terms of day to day people management
  • Customer Centricity without Customer OCD
  • Leadership for good : Balancing Passion, Purpose and Profit

We finish with the hilarious story of Richard’s entrée into the world of Cola, which resulted in failure:

Cola Wars


“When trying to promote anything in the US one really has to “Go big or go home” – well, we went big! … I drove a vintage Sherman tank down Broadway … heroically smashing through a giant wall of Coke and Pepsi cans.”

Sir Richard Branson

On this occasion Richard’s underlying modus operandi of “playing David to Goliath” did not succeed. Coca Cola engaged their massive distribution machine to ensure there was no room on the shelves for Virgin’s product, Coke was discounted massively and Virgin retired injured. The key point here is the idea that success recipes work for a set of reasons and therefore transplanting a recipe (the David and Goliath approach in this case) does not always work in a new set of circumstances.

Contact me via peter@humdyn.co.uk to book David and myself for that very special event.

With Sir Richard Branson at The Virgin Money Lounge

With Sir Richard Branson at The Virgin Money Lounge

UK Tour : A Motley Crew

Here are the dates of our tour of UK Virgin Money Lounges with Vicky Hamilton, former manager of Guns N’ Roses, Poison and management consultant to Motley Crue. Vicky worked directly for the inflammatory character that was David Geffen, CEO of Geffen Records and Capitol Records during her career and learned at the School of Hard Rocks rather than Harvard Business School. The combination of Vicky’s hard bitten experience and my own distillation of MBA’s makes for a powerful combination. All dates are entirely FREE and run from 3.00 – 4.30 pm.

On each tour date we are also booking business masterminding session where you will gain insights into management of some of the most incendiary people on the planet with transferable value to your own enterprise.

Click to book your place at the relevant Virgin Lounge:

Glasgow - Tuesday September 13 Click to book your place

Glasgow – Tuesday September 13 Click to book your place or call 0141 221 1952

 

Manchester Wed 14 Sept - Click to book

Manchester – Wednesday September 14 – Click to book your place or call 0161 832 8259

 

Sheffield - Thursday September 15 - Click to book your place

Sheffield – Thursday September 15 – Click to book your place or call 0114 276 8262

 

London Eagle Place - Friday September 16 - Click to book your place

London Eagle Place – Friday September 16 – Click to book your place or call 0207 439 8802

We’ll have copies of Vicky’s book available after lounge events alongside my books “Sex Leadership and Rock’n’Roll” and the latest one for Bloomsbury “Leading Innovation, Creativity and Enterprise“.

Leadership Lessons from The Academy of Rock

Leadership Lessons from The Academy of Rock – Where MBA = Much Bigger Amps !!

Come lounge and learn from someone who has managed the tantrums, bizarre expectations, dysfunctional behaviours, creativity and hair of these people. I sense she managed this by being something of an equivalent diva herself. Expect fireworks!!

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Attitude for dysfunction

 

Guns, Roses and Rock ‘n’ Roll

I’m delighted to announce a liaison with Vicky Hamilton, former Manager of Guns N’ Roses, Poison and Faster Pussycat and management consultant with Mötley Crüe. Together, we offer MBA2 where Masters of Business Administration meets Much Bigger Amplifiers … a unique combination of lessons on leadership from Vicky’s experience in holding explosive rock bands together with Peter’s quintessentially English observations on business from his combined experience as an MBA tutor, scientist and musician. We offer insights on the following topics:

  • Disruptive and creative thinking about your business strategy and practices
  • Converting creativity into sustainable profit
  • Managing volatile people with huge egos under extreme pressure
  • Negotiation, influencing and persuading powerful people
  • Building and rethinking your brand to face a VUCA world (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous)

We are giving showcase events at The Virgin Lounges in the UK on these dates:

Virgin Lounge Tour 2016

Virgin Lounge Tour 2016

We are also offering a strictly limited dinner with Vicky and myself, providing a 1:1 opportunity for detailed discussions about managing high performance people with planetary sized egos. Contact me to book your dinner date:

Where Business meets Rock'n'Roll - Book a Dinner Date with Vicky Hamilton et moi

Where Business meets Rock’n’Roll – Book a Dinner Date with Vicky Hamilton et moi

At 22, Vicky Hamilton left her hometown of Fort Wayne, Indiana, and arrived on the Sunset Strip as a wide-eyed blonde with an ear for rock & roll: “I was back home interviewing Tom Petty for Three Rivers Review,” says Hamilton, “And he told me I was a ‘real California girl,’ and that’s all it took.” It was 1981, and Hamilton arrived at the centre of Hollywood; where the scene was erupting with spandex, sex, cocaine, Aqua Net hairspray and madcap visionaries, like Hamilton, who discovered Guns N’ Roses and became their first manager and surrogate mother. She moved on to work as an A&R executive at major labels such as Geffen and Capitol, in addition to starting her own Grammy winning indie label Small Hairy Dog. Vicky’s book “Appetite for Dysfunction” is a no-holds-barred exploration of the realities of managing rock bands with transferable lessons for anyone seeking to manage creative people or disrupt their markets. Vicky is considered one of the most successful female industry players and has made many TV appearances on MTV, VH1, BBC, The Biography Channel etc.

Sex, Dysfunction and Rock'n'Roll

Sex, Dysfunction and Rock’n’Roll

Slash 4

Slash meets Prince – with my pal Aaron Stone after hours at a private party 

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Peter Cook leads Human Dynamics, offering better Business / Organisation Development and Coaching / Mentoring. He offers keynotes that blend World Class Leadership Thinking with the wisdom of the street via The Academy of Rock – where Business Meets Music.

For some wisdom on business leadership, innovation and creativity, check Peter’s seventh book out at Bloomsbury or book us for a masterclass or longer development programme.

 

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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