Brainpower

We are entering the 4th industrial revolution. This is not the age of steam, coal or manufacturing, but the information revolution, where value is created primarily through the intelligent combination of knowledge and wisdom.

How shall we cope in a world where it has variously been predicted that up to 50% of our jobs will disappear in the next few decades?  What does that mean for education, where the half life of knowledge is in freefall? What will become of money in such a world?

These and other topics are the subject of a new book I’ve just released with Gower / Routledge entitled “Brain Based Enterprises“.

Click to view on Amazon

Brain Based Enterprises offers a unique synthesis of cutting edge academic research and pragmatic insights into business practices in the art and discipline of leading and managing enterprises where ideas, intelligence and insight are the currencies of sustainable collaborative and competitive advantage (SCCA). From the first signs of intelligence through making axes and fire, we now have access to unprecedented powers of creation through the convergence of humanity and technology. Rapid and dramatic advances in our understanding of genomics, biotechnology, computing and robotics make it possible for us to create a better world or destroy what we have created. Brain Based Enterprises explores both sides of the equation so that you can choose wisely.

Four scenarios for our union between man, woman and machine

Brain Based Enterprises draws upon leading edge research but expressed clearly and concisely for the busy person seeking to inform and illuminate themselves with a rich mixture of pragmatism and wisdom. Featuring numerous case examples from companies ranging from biotechnology to banking and bots, Brain Based Enterprises grounds the ideas and relates to busy people seeking practical inspiration.

Brain Based Enterprises addresses questions such as:

  1. How shall we function in a world where man and machine will have interchangeable and complementary functions?
  2. How will we re-organise organisations to make best use of collective cybernetic and human intelligence?
  3. What will intelligence actually mean in a world where we are drowning in data? Instead how shall we swim with information?
  4. How may we become more intelligent, individually and collectively?
  5. What can and should Governments do to encourage intelligent societies?
  6. How will education need to change in order to continue to be relevant and effective?
  7. What role can leaders and Human Relations specialists play in stimulating an enterprise’s collective synapses? How can they engender climates and cultures where ideas, intelligence and insight are the norm?

The book and our other offerings lend themselves to keynotes and longer masterclasses via our websites Human Dynamics and The Academy of Rock.

Rather than drowning in data we must learn to swim with knowledge and wisdom in the machine age

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The Art of Listening

I met Dame Evelyn Glennie recently at an event I was invited to at The Bank of England. A remarkable dialogue took place about the gentle art and discipline of listening, expertly organised by Andy Haldane, Chief Economist at BoE.

Evelyn Glennie has been deaf since her teenage years, yet she developed as a percussionist and ‘feels’ sound through her body.  She opened the 2012 Olympics using the Aluphone:

Why then would The Bank of England have someone from such a different world come to address an invited audience?

Glennie talked passionately about the art of listening. All businesses could improve their abilities in this area, especially as the speed / rhythm of business continues to increase and that decreases the spaces for meaningful conversation. I have experienced this at first hand through my work with Dr Andrew Sentance, former Monetary Policy Committee member at the Bank of England, himself a musician, and via 25 years of consulting with a huge range of businesses and organisations.

Much business conversation is really discussion, based on the root form of percussion or “to beat around”.  Whereas physicist David Bohm talks of the need for dialogue, where there is a genuine enquiry.  Complex business issues demand dialogue more than discussion and yet most businesses are time limited so issues tend to be beaten around rather than relying on more skilful inquiry.  I call such issues “wicked problems” and they require high level listening, collaboration and complex problem solving skills.

Music, simply stated, is applied physics. Banks run on mathematics and science but the gap between music and mathematics is mostly an imaginary one, installed at an early age when we are judged to be more arty or scientific. At the highest levels art and science are often indistinguishable. Our job as leaders is to “improve the signal : noise ratio” in business.  This of course can be done badly by shutting down conversation or improving our abilities to hear … this, itself opens up a much wider dialogue …

Thus business could learn a thing or two from music and vice versa.  Hats off to The Bank of England for hosting such an engaging event as part of their outreach series.  Here’s a TED talk from Evelyn Glennie, where she elucidates further on the gentle art of listening:

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Peter Cook leads The Academy of Rock – Speaking and Conference facilitation and Human Dynamics – Business and Organisation Development. Check his books out on Amazon:

Transferable lessons for business from music

Definitely Theresa Maybe

Our next song in the Rage Against The Brexit Machine project is a dark analysis of Theresa May’s personal style via the hard hitting anthem “Shit Eating Grin”.  Buy the song on iTunes, Amazon and Google Play.  “Shit Eating Grin” is written and recorded entirely by Peter Da Clinker and you can find his albums via Bandcamp.

Whilst I mostly prefer to critique issues over personalities in politics, I will make an exception here.  Theresa May has remained duplicitous, disingenuous and deceitful throughout her reign. Just recall these examples:

  • Theresa May has used our 3 million EU citizens as human bargaining chips in the Brexit negotiating process, in a most inhumane act to these people and their families.
  • Theresa bribed the DUP in order to prop up a minority Government with £1 billion, whilst at the same time stating that there was no “magic money tree” to pay for health, social care, student loans etc. May is now putting the fragile Northern Ireland peace process at risk in order to satisfy the whims and fantasies of 35 Conservative Brexit Ultras in her party.
  • May campaigned to Remain in the EU but now claims to be a Brexiteer, stating that “Brexit Means Brexit” when it remains clear that it still has no meaning whatsoever.
  • She declared 63% of the UK voting population to be “Citizens of Nowhere” and now claims to want to rebuild the country as one nation under a Brexit groove …. no thank you Ma’am

Grab “Shit Eating Grin” and let’s “Break Brexit Before Brexit Breaks Britain”

 

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