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.

 

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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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Agilty and Perception

In our occasional series of posts on the practical aspects of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), here’s a short post on one of NLP’s values, summed up by the phrase:

The meaning of communication is the response you get

This simple phrase is one of the hardest but most useful principles to get on board. Instead of thinking it’s someone else’s fault if they don’t ‘get you’, this NLP principle places the onus on you to vary your communication style to be more influential. the buck rests with you, and if at first you don’t succeed, try something different. Many times we misunderstand each other, as if we are speaking foreign languages:

I say Tomato, you say Tom Ate O, let’s call the whole thing off

In practice, you can use this idea in the following ways:

Try explaining yourself from the other person’s point of view

Explain yourself in the language they would prefer rather than your own preferences. Live inside their world, not yours

Ask them to explain what they don’t understand or accept, then move on from there

We live inside our own skins for much of thIn some cases, no matter hard we try, some people are “on the Central Line” and others “on the Circle” metaphorically speaking … of course there are points at which these tube lines meet … 🙂 Check the 1948 tube map out to think about how you can meet people in a conversation where they are rather than where you are:

Skilled negotiators and influencers understand and use these skills naturally but they can also be learned and refined. Check out our offerings in this area at Human Dynamics or give us a call to set up some NLP master coaching.

Of course some people are just really “hard to read” as illustrated by this cat cartoon from my friend’s cousin, the great Steve Bell – such people make great poker players amongst other life and business skills. More on this in another article to demystify and cut the crap (but not the cats) out of NLP.

We finish with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers on the vexed question of communication excellence:

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Human Dynamics offers better business and organisation development, training and coaching. Our sister company The Academy of Rock specialises in cross-disciplinary learning on business and music, delivered through conference keynotes and longer masterclasses.

Do order your copy of the NEW edition of “The Music of Business” – Parallel lessons on Business and Music. Acclaimed by Professor Adrian Furnham and Harvey Goldsmith CBE.

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

HM Customs need Exercise

Coming back from Poland the other week, I had the opportunity to compare slick and fantastic customer service in Poland with “GBH” (Great British Hindrance) at London Stansted Airport, now renamed London Standstill Airport. After a two hour flight from Warsaw, it took me a whole hour to clear the UK border due to massive queues at HM Revenue and Customs.

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Having missed an important meeting due to this I decided to track down the management and ask them some questions. I ventured up the stairs to ‘mission control’. The first thing that happened was that I was told I have stepped into a restricted area and asked to walk back down the stairs (there were no restrictions, so these must have been invisible to the common man or woman). Here’s how the conversation unfolded. I was polite but firm.

Me “So, what’s your excuse today then?”

HMRC Manager “What do you mean?”

Me “Well, it’s not like Tescos, there has not been an unpredictable ‘surge in sales of cheese and ham baguettes’ etc. You know exactly how many people are due to come through here at any moment, so what is your excuse for a one hour transit time through customs?”

HMRC Manager “It’s the passengers. We have a high volume of children”

Me “Quel Surprise. Who knew? Please try again”

HMRC Manager “It’s the Government cuts. We have no resources”

Me “I’m sorry, that’s a typical public sector response. It’s the job of management to secure sufficient resources to provide a reasonable service or organise the ones you have to make the service work. You have plenty of resources anyway – you are all sitting up in your office watching the work, whilst very few people actually do the work. Why not have more people doing the work rather than watching it? The machines you invested billions in are not working either. It is management’s job to sort such things out rather than pass the blame to Government”

HMRC Manager “And the staff are not adequately trained”

ME “No sorry, it’s not a training issue. It’s a staffing issue. Your staff are perfectly capable, they are just crumbling under the pressure of inadequate numbers, whilst there are plenty of staff overall, just not enough of them working”

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The queue stretched back almost to our arrival gate – disgraceful incompetence by UK Border Agency

HMRC Manager “Would you like to fill in a complaint form?”

ME “No, I don’t have time to fill in your pointless bureaucracy and that’s just a sop anyway. I’m telling you now so that you can do something about it. In any case I have already taken photos of the problem”

HMRC Manager “I cannot do anything without a complaint form. If you have taken photographs of the booths, we may have to seize your phone and delete the pictures as this is a restricted area”

ME “Is this Russia? I went there in the 1980’s and it wasn’t this bad …. In any case, once again, you are an hour ate. The pictures have already gone on Twitter and are already half way round the world. For anyone coming to the UK, this is a national disgrace. If Tescos operated to such levels of performance, they would be out of business”

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At that point I gave up, fearing that any further attempts to install a continuous improvement culture in HMRC would be met with a ‘rubber glove inspection’. Read the comments on this post. I am far from alone in my experience. I am sure that some managers in public services do try, but I’ve yet to find one that does not respond to serious complaints with excuses such as:

It’s the customers’ fault

It’s the Government’s fault

It’s the staff’s fault

Management in public services needs to be much much better, yet there are no ‘carrots’ to do so. The result of improving efficiency is ultimately fewer jobs. Nor are there any ‘sticks’ for not making things better – it’s almost impossible to get the sack in public services. I was talking to my accountant the other day and he told me it has always been thus. He worked at the Inland Revenue many years ago and was given a verbal warning for ‘overperforming’. He was told “you will never get on here if you work that fast”. He agreed and left shortly after.

So, that’s today’s ‘grumpy man’ post. I really do expect better than this and think we must look like a laughing stock to other nations. I don’t think the private sector is the answer to public problems, yet we are stuck with poor performance from many public services and this does not fit with a public that expect their taxes to be used efficiently. Call me a heretic if you will, but the point of travel is ‘motion’ rather than being ‘stationary’. Perhaps it is time for HM Customs to be Exorcised 🙂 Time for some music Standstill airport:


Peter Cook is author of “The Music of Business” and “Punk Rock People Management” which simplify business leadership, creativity and innovation, strategic thinking and people management for busy people. HM Customs and Exorcise clearly need a lot of help in this area!!

Check out the books at Cultured Llama.

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:

All the small things

Arriving at BBC Radio 4 for ‘You and Yours’

Tuesday is a red-letter day for me.  After many months of planning, we deliver the “Monsters of Rock’n’Roll Business” event featuring Bernie Tormé, for a large group of business managers at the Dartford Hilton Hotel.  The event is being recorded for broadcast by BBC Radio 4’s You and Yours programme, Bloomberg TV, The Independent, BBC TV, The Brazillian Financial Times and many more.  People keep asking me how I managed to achieve such levels of publicity. Others seem to think I have a major PR agency working for me.  This is not true, and the back story of this may be summarised as a lot of hard work … and a little bit of luck.  It all comes down to ‘the small things’.  Let’s hear Blink 182’s take on all the small things:

Our story has important lessons for all those who have to deal with the media as part of their business.

I had sent a press release out to various places for the event.  The story got picked up by The Independent newspaper last Thursday.  The journalist rewrote the press release to read as follows:

Cook will be joined by Bernie Tormé, former lead guitarist for Ozzy Osbourne, and Ian Gillan, the Deep Purple singer.

It’s perfectly accurate, but do you see what has happened here?

  • I will indeed be joined by Bernie Tormé.  Fact.
  • Tormé was indeed guitarist for Ozzy Osbourne.  Fact.
  • Tormé was also guitarist for Ian Gillan.  Fact.
  • Ian Gillan was the singer of the legendary hard rock group Deep Purple.  Fact.
  • Ian Gillan will not be, and was never due to be, at the event.

The BBC’s editorial team picked up on the story but missed the all-important comma.  By Friday morning, BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme ran a story that more or less suggested I was responsible for reforming Black Sabbath and Deep Purple – An awe inspiring thought but sadly untrue!  By Saturday evening, The Sunday Express and New Musical Express had copied the mistake and amplified our event into a ‘tour’ through the strategic addition of the letter ‘s’ to the word seminar ! 😦 Despite copious efforts to correct the story online, the mistake was repeated on BBC 6 Music’s Radcliffe and Maconie show on Monday.  At the time of writing, the story has reached USA Today, The Times of India, Planet Rock Radio and Gibson Guitars.

USA Today copied the mistake and suggested that Ozzy and Gillan were joining a business consultancy – ha ha

This is graphic evidence of what has been said recently in the Leveson Enquiry that:

“Checking your facts = I read it in another paper”

You might say that all publicity is good publicity?  In this case, I had to spend considerable time and energy correcting online media and apologising to Ian Gillan’s management.  Rock’n’Roll HR can be cruel and I’m pleased to say that I still have all my body parts after this process!  I also had to spend quite a bit of time dealing with old rockers and rock chicks, who wrote e-mails to confer God-like status on me, for forging a reunion between Ian Gillan and Bernie Tormé.   Having  pulled this trick off, some of them even expect me to resurrect Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse!

The Belfast Telegraph picked up the story and decided to replace Bernie’s picture with Elton John !  I have not yet decided to get a piano in for the event …

Well-known Irish Pub Singer Elton John turns up in the Belfast Telegraph

What then are the lessons for people who deal with PR and external affairs?

  1. If possible, get national media journalists to send a proof of anything they release.  Of course they don’t like doing this, but it helps to avoid this kind of PR disaster.
  2. Act fast to correct errors.  I stopped the Sunday Express print run by contacting the paper at midnight on Saturday, but the ‘runaway online media train’ had already ‘left the station’ re online copies of the article.
  3. Commas cost me a few apologies to some class A rock stars, but the consequences could be more serious for your business.  In the warped words of Blink 182, All the small things count.
Postscript:  The event was filmed by Bloomberg TV, BBC One News.  BBC Radio 4 also made a programme for their You and Yours Programme.  Woohoo !