Poland Rocks

“When I want sax, I call Candy” – Photography by Michał Ozdoba http://www.facebook.com/michalozdobaphotographer

I visited Poland to give a Leadership and Music Masterclass just recently. I also attended an after party with some of Poland’s finest musicians, who gave me CD’s of their music. One of them even supported me in giving a cameo performance at very short notice. Featuring superb playing by the band members and the sax work of Karolina Malwina (Candy Dulfer) Dąbrowska. Here are some samples of all the bands’ work:

Hanza – A superb hard rock band that has been around for two years. They play songs that rock hard with haunting vocals and have just signed a contract, for their debut album being released on September 11th 2015.  Hanza played in a TV show “Świat się kręci” (“The world is spinning”) on national TV and played a show in the legendary SO36 club in Berlin, to incredible acclaim by both the crowd and the other bands.

Faith Healer – A band from the Netherlands – These guys rock hard. I watched some of the members perform some Whitesnake and Bon Jovi songs unplugged at the Pure Sky Club. Strangely I interviewed Bernie Marsden from Whitesnake just the other day. Faith Healer blend great vocal harmonies and metal hammerings in a melodic setting. Don’t call the doctor – just check their original material out:

Here I go again - With Whitesnake's Bernie Marsden

Here I go again – With Whitesnake’s Bernie Marsden

The Rookles‘ band name is based on a fusion of The Rutles and The Beatles. The band write classy pop songs in this style with beautiful 3 part harmonies. Great pop music that honours its influences from the Fab Four, Squeeze, Elvis Costello and many more. Check their album Open Space out.

PrimeTime – Great band, great musicians and great attitude, the band has a particularly unusual vocal style. Comparisons are invidious but I heard some influences from some great indie bands of the 90’s coming through including The Cult. Check their song out Into The Sun”

Slimmotion – The closest comparison I could make was the Red Hot Chilli Peppers – not a bad comparison at all. Hard and funky. Oh that guitar sound and the open hat – just right for a good bit of moshing.

Killing Silence – Haunting songs that combine great vocals with a superb rhythm section which drive the songs along. Great bass playing and an almost theatrical performance and a nod to Dave Grohl in their sound and performance.

Unity – A classic rock combo with a superbly produced album called Promised Land.  Love the song Godamn Bloody Kangaroo – a bit of a chilli pepper in this one as well. A bit of stadium rock in the song Lost Highway – David Coverdale meets Bon Jovi.

The Pure Sky Club ROCKS - Photography by Michał Ozdoba http://www.facebook.com/michalozdobaphotographer

The Pure Sky Club ROCKS – Photography by Michał Ozdoba http://www.facebook.com/michalozdobaphotographer

A is for Attitude

A is for Attitude – Photography by Michał Ozdoba http://www.facebook.com/michalozdobaphotographer

Some of the madding crowd - Photography by Michał Ozdoba http://www.facebook.com/michalozdobaphotographer

Some of the madding crowd – Photography by Michał Ozdoba http://www.facebook.com/michalozdobaphotographer

The Master of Ceremonies - Mr Brian Allan - Photograph Michał Ozdoba - http://www.facebook.com/michalozdobaphotographer

The Master of Ceremonies – Mr Brian Allan – Photograph Michał Ozdoba – http://www.facebook.com/michalozdobaphotographer

Far from the madding crowd  - Photography by Michał Ozdoba http://www.facebook.com/michalozdobaphotographer

Far from the madding crowd – Photography by Michał Ozdoba http://www.facebook.com/michalozdobaphotographer

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Order your copy of the NEW edition of “The Music of Business” – Parallel lessons on Business and Music. Or grab a copy of Sex, Leadership and Rock’n’Roll in Polish!  Peter’s new book comes out in February 2016 with Bloomsbury – the home of Harry Potter.

Check our music and business events out at The Academy of Rock.

Release date 25.02.16

Release date 25.02.16

Hard Rock Heaven

I’m performing again with Bernie Tormé, former guitarist with Ozzy Osbourne and Deep Purple’s Ian Gillan at London’s prestigious Borderline venue on Saturday October 31st. The concert is in support of Bernie’s crowdfunding project to record a new album. There’s just a few days left to get involved in this awesome project. We just recorded a four track EP at Bernie’s studio in one day. He has several guitar lessons left and you can even bring your band to jam with the man at his studio – spending a few hours with a master musician at an incredible price, plus albums, t-shirts and so on. Click on the logo to find out more:

Click to join Bernie's crowdfunding project and be part of a unique phenomenon

Click to join Bernie’s crowdfunding project and be part of a unique phenomenon – hurry now – there’s just a few days to go before the project ends

Get yourself a ticket to this once in a lifetime event at The Borderline. Here I reflect on important lessons about high performance from my previous experiences in corporate life and the school of hard rocks.

Prepare if you want to be spontaneous

I had just a 3 minute soundcheck at Bernie’s last gig so there was no time to find out about the band’s “chemistry” on the night itself. Fortunately I had done some preparation beforehand to study all that was necessary to be a reasonably good team member without extensive practice. For me, this mirrors many situations in business life where there is no rehearsal time.  The lesson is that preparation is key to spontaneity and high performance. It’s what Tom Peters calls the 10 000 hours effect.

A similar thing happened the other week at a leadership event I ran in Warsaw. Despite meticulous preparations by the organisers, we ended up arriving late for the event due to gridlock in the city. I always have a plan B, C and D for such situations, and we had to operate most of these in the event, including running the event ‘backwards’ whilst various items that had been promised were located. However, there is always something new to learn and I had not planned for an on-stage electrocution due to an earth loop! Fortunately it was only 48 volts.  This is not what I really mean when I talk about High Voltage Performance!! The audience seemed to think it was all part of my act …

I wanna be electrocuted ... with Alice Cooper

I wanna be electrocuted … with Alice Cooper

The moment just before electrocution by Brian Allan - at The Quadrilion Art Gallery in Warsaw

The moment just before electrocution by Brian Allan when guitar connected with microphone – at The Quadrilion Art Gallery in Warsaw

Relax, stay focused, be creative

On the morning of the main event in Warsaw, the promised guitar failed to arrive for a set of odd reasons. The MD of the Blue Sky Club arrived to tell me the news just 15 minutes before we were due to start in front of a large audience. He clearly expected me to throw a tantrum. Instead I told him it would be alright and then scratched my head. I thought I’d go and make some enquiries with some audience members who had been talking to me about instruments. Within minutes, it turned out that one of the delegate’s wives was Marketing Director for The Hard Rock Cafe (next door). We were promised a guitar and the show carried on. The lessons here are:

Don’t panic

Stay focused

Be creative to reach your goal

Sometimes life throws up a better option when a crisis occurs ....

Sometimes life throws up a better option when a crisis occurs ….

So, whilst it’s nice when things go to plan, they don’t always and the smart money is on planning for sh…t to happen rather than making sh….t happen.

Book yourself a ticket to The Borderline for October 31st now and take a look at the great things on offer in Bernie’s latest crowdfunding project with Pledge Music. Bernie kindly credited me alongside Arthur Brown, Dee Snider and Ginger Wildheart on his last album release. This is the kind of testimonial that beats ‘happy sheets’ at the end of a course by a country mile and sits well alongside kind words from Harvey Goldsmith, Professor Adrian Furnham, Charles Handy, Bill Nelson, Sheila E and Tom Peters.

Bernie Torme - a gentle giant

Bernie Torme – a gentle giant

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Peter Cook leads Human Dynamics and The Academy of Rock. Author of and contributor to ten books on business leadership, creativity and innovation. His latest offerings “Punk Rock People Management” – 2nd Edition and a NEW edition of “The Music of Business” may be ordered now.

Book your ticket for a great night in London at the Borderline on Saturday October 31 at The Borderline.

Let there be drums – An interview with Chris Slade

Slade Alive - Chris and Peter just before Thunder struck

Slade Alive – Chris and Peter just before Thunder struck

I interviewed Chris Slade recently, drummer for AC / DC, Tom Jones, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, Asia, Paul Rodgers, Gary Numan and many more.  Here’s what Craig Sclare, a fellow drummer and management consultant, had to say about Chris:

Chris is a solid drummer, I love his style, his power and drive.  His ability to ‘feel’ when the right time is to increase/decrease the energy is brilliant (great leaders in any field just know how to do this) – Craig Sclare – Management Consultant

Here’s some of what he Chris had to me:

Chris started playing drums on one biscuit tin with knives in Pontypridd – they were not rich enough to have more than one biscuit tin!  His first break in the music business came when he played for Tom Jones.  Although he lived near Jones, he did not know him.  One day whilst working in a shoe shop in Pontypridd, Tom’s guitar player came in.  Knowing that Jones had just lost a drummer, Chris begged the guitarist for him to let him play.  At that time Chris was a teenager and the guitarist in his twenties.  This was a huge gap, nonetheless, the guitarist agreed to introduce Chris.  He puts this down to luck, yet this kind of thing does not occur by staying in your bedroom as a musician.

Drum Lesson 1:  Ask and you may receive

Drum Lesson 2:  Make a bit of luck happen

Watch the whole interview from the lovely people at ME1 TV here:

Chris’ early drumming experience was playing jazz.  Without this experience, it is unlikely that he would have been able to replace Carl Palmer in Asia.  His life has included playing with solid rock bands such as AC / DC and with Progressive Rock bands such as Manfred Mann’s Earthband and Asia.

Drum Lesson 3:  To be successful, work from a wide palette of styles

The drummer is pretty much the most important member of the band.  You can get away with a bad lead guitarist but if your drummer is rubbish, you are in big trouble as everything else revolves around that. Asked about AC / DC Chris had this to say:

Drum Lesson 4:  AC / DC’s success is all down to having the best rhythm section in the world – Malcolm Young and the drum and bass combination

Drum Lesson 5: To improve your sense of time and timing in business, don’t hire a management consultant, hire a drummer!

Read the article on AC / DC and high performance in "The Music of Business"

Read the article on AC / DC and high performance in “The Music of Business”

Drum Lesson 6:  AC / DC’s success is all down to extensive preparation – there are no unplanned events in an AC / DC concert.  It’s the “Seven P’s” : Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance

Drum Lesson 7:  Excellence comes out of “Planned Spontaneity”.  Do the work if you want to profit from accidents

Heres a slice of Chris playing with AC / DC at Donnington:

I asked Chris about his time with Gary Numan – I’m aware from my friendship with Bill Nelson that Gary Numan was something of a perfectionist and that he has a ‘digital heart’.  That made him a difficult man to work with for Bill Nelson and I was curious about what seemed an odd combination for a rock drummer.  Not at all Chris replied.  Chris worked with Numan and Pino Palladino, the virtuoso bass player that is most famous for playing on Paul Young’s rendition of “Wherever I Lay My Hat”.  Chris said that the combination of Paladino and himself humanised Gary Numan’s sound.  That said, he found it initially hard to work with click tracks on Numan’s insistence.  This sounds a little familiar with Bill Nelson’s experience although this ended somewhat less profitably!  Here’s Numan with Slade and Palladino performing “Music For Chameleons”, later popularised as a symbol of 80’s music by Alan Partridge:

Drum Lesson 8:  Experiment with styles to get better.  Be an eclectic learner and don’t let notions of what is acceptable put boundaries around your work

Chris Slade’s music can be found at Chris Slade.  Here’s some of Chris’ Lessons for Life summarised:

Be nice to drummers - they might just save your life

Be nice to drummers – they might just save your life

Finally, here’s Chris’ tour schedule for 2014 and a bit of hard rock featuring one of my favourite drummers, Vicky Nolan, erstwhile drummer for my fictional Spinal Tapesque Rock group “Genital Sparrow”, who performed at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) many years ago, long before the institute banned enjoyment as part of the diet for HR professionals:

He's a live wire - Chris Slade on tour

He’s a live wire – Chris Slade on tour

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About the Author:  Peter Cook leads The Academy of Rock – Keynote events with a difference and Human Dynamics – Business and organisation development, training and coaching. Contact via peter@humdyn.co.uk or +44 (0) 7725 927585.

More on AC / DC and business in "Sex, Leadership and Rock'n'Roll" and "The Music of Business"

More on AC / DC and business in “Sex, Leadership and Rock’n’Roll” and “The Music of Business”

Riffs and Myths of Leadership

Last week saw the culmination of the “Monsters of Rock Event”, featuring Bernie Tormé, hosted by the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply in partnership with The Open University.  I must say it was a super night.  If you were unable to attend, here’s a little window into what took place on the evening.  Click on the burning guitar to see Bloomberg TV’s report with Owen Thomas on the evening.  Bloomberg have 300 million viewers worldwide which is a mind boggling number:

I seem surprised at the ‘spontaneous combustion’ of my Les Paul prior to the Monsters of Rock Event – Click on the guitar to view Bloomberg TV’s feature on the event

BBC Radio 4’s Melanie Abbott also attended and put this splendid feature together on their flagship You & Yours Programme:

To my surprise, the event was also featured on BBC One News by the wonderful Mark Norman:

Riffs and Myths of Leadership also featured on BBC 6 Music, The NME, The Independent, Gibson Guitars, BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme, The Sunday Express, The Belfast Telegraph, Planet Rock Radio and many other media, so if anyone is looking to make an impact out there, do get in touch.  This prompted my good friend,  Richard Strange, the “Godfather of Punk” to ask me to get off the media so other people could have a chance! 🙂

We also had an extremely diverse audience, ranging from Academia to Pharmaceuticals, HR Specialists, Industrial Entrepreneurs, Insurance, Construction, Railways and even Lloyds of London.  People came from as far afield as Malta, The Midlands and The Isle of Man for the event.  So, what did they get?  Here’s a few remarks:

“Very enjoyable. But, on a serious note you also make a lot of sense in the areas of management and leadership”
Alex Watson, Lloyds Register

“Inspirational – a structured delivery of key management tenets through the art of rock music. The potential for chaos and mayhem reinforced the learning points – risk mitigation came in the form of common understanding, shared direction, a teamworking ethic and the freedom to demonstrate and develop creativity. Net result – a fun-filled, thought provoking learning experience. If you get the chance, take it or regret another missed opportunity to live your business life in the fast lane ……..      Peter Cook (and his band of associates) rock the business world!”

Neil Smith, Oxford Brookes University

So, big thanks to Vicky Nolan at O2 for playing drums, singing and playing harp, Guy Cresswell of Promuseast for providing the lighting, John Howitt, international session musician and or course to Bernie Tormé for his superb guitar playing and good humour.

Of course, If you would like to have a micro experience of our work or maybe a 24 hour strategy retreat, please contact us.  On the horizon are a sales team conference with Scott Mc Gill, improvisational jazz guitarist and a creativity masterclass with Richard Strange.  I’m off for a well-deserved beer with Bernie this evening to discuss opportunities on the horizon with Google, a trip to Romania and a well-known pharmaceutical company …

Light my fire : Bernie Burns the Les Paul

Innovation Excellence – Calling all firestarters

This week, I have a great opportunity for writers, musicians and business leaders.  I have just been appointed “Rock’n’Roll Innovation Editor” for a US based Global Innovation Company called Innovation Excellence.  The company is run by Julie Anixter, who worked with Tom Peters and Seth Godin amongst other leading business thinkers around the world.  Innovation Excellence is the most popular innovation website in the world with over 10 000 readers per day and counting.  As part of my job there, I am planning interviews with people in the coming year such as Ahmet Ertegun’s biographer, CEO of Atlantic Records, Bill Nelson, Professor Adrian Furnham, Bernie Torme, Sir Richard Branson and Sir Paul McCartney.  We’re starting shortly with a piece about the enigma that is Richard Strange, leader of proto-punk pop-art group The Doctors of Madness and perhaps punk’s godfather,

So, what then does the Rock’n’Roll Innovation Editor do?  Good question!  You don’t see many RNR Innovation Editors on the staff at the Financial Times or the New York Herald Tribune!  My job is to interview, write or commission articles with any of the following types of people:

  • Innovative musicians – Names that spring to mind include Robert Fripp, Lady Gaga, Brian Eno, Madonna – people who have either innovated within music or are gamechangers in the music industry.
  • Innovation leaders – Especially those who get the idea that innovative leadership requires both discipline and improvisation – Virgin, Toyota, First Direct, Google, 3M, The Eden Project spring immediately to mind.
  • Innovation authors and academics – Again those who have a ‘Rock’n’Roll outlook’ on the subject – Brian Clegg, Tom Peters, Adrian Furnham et al are on my list of suspects here.

Innovation Excellence is also open to sponsors who wish to help build the best educational resource in the world for innovation.  Contact me via e-mail at peter@humdyn.co.uk to see what’s on offer.

So, in the warped words of the hymn “Come all ye faithful … and also a healthy dose of firestarters …”  Drop me a line and let’s see if we can create a guest article or interview.

Speaking of firestarters, time to finish with a bit of that…

A Rock’n’Roll Christmas – Part 1

Rockin' all over the world

This year I have been blessed to meet some fantastic people around the blogging universe.  They have kindly offered to send me a Christmas message, so here for your delight are some Rock’n’Roll life and business coaching tips taken from a magical mystery tour round the world:

We start out journey close to my home in London: Meet Doug Shaw, author of Stop Doing Dumb Things to Customers, who indulges me with a bit of punk rock.  “Joe Strummer taught me to be ‘anti-ignorance’ and for sharing ‘Without People You’re Nothing’

Doug also offered us the example of Neil Ellwood Peart from the supergroup Rush – for his ability to recover from personal tragedy and his endless thirst for improvement.  A class act.  Lest we forget:

We must rush on … to platform 9 and ¾ at Kings Cross to join The Flying Scotsman.  We are met in Edinburgh by Colin Millar, aka The Ranting Scotsman.  Colin cranks it up with a leadership lesson from classic rock:  Queen’s ‘One Vision, One Mission’.

Colin rants “The title and lyrics say it all and I think it’s a great message for business people – ‘One Vision’ is first and foremost about the ‘vision’ and extrapolating what that vision is and the unity vision creates, bringing people and cause together.  I also like the concept of ‘consensus in eden’ that runs through the song”.

From a big country we then take a passage to India, to hear from Sonia Jaspal, who focuses on the power of music to create and maintain emotions.  She says “I think without music, the world would lose the most beautiful power of expressive emotions. It touches the depth of our soul. I am still a person that when I listen to some of the softer numbers I have tears in my eyes. Yeah, I need a box of tissues while watching some movies.   Also, without music, one would lose most of the inspirations in life. When one listens to beautiful music it somewhere resonates deep within. It has the capacity to change emotions and thinking.

Sonia’s favorite song is from an Hindi movie titled Safar (Journey). The song is ‘Zindagi Ka Safar’ (Life’s journey) sung in Kishore Kumar.  It is portrayed via an actor suffering cancer.   He is singing the song:

Moving on to Canada, home of Bryan Adams, Celine Dion and Francois Guay, who leads the Attack Defend Disrupt blog.  His choice of music that offers us a lesson in life or business is ‘More than a Feeling’ by Boston:

Francois takes up the story “This song contains my favourite guitar riff ever.“ Editor’s note – I can sign up to that!  “Although most people see it as a man disappointed in a having lost someone he loved, the song to me is all about reaching your goal, i.e. When you achieve one of your key goals that is “more than a feeling” it’s sublime and must be reproduced again and again.”  Seems like a lot of people agree that music inspires us to focus on and reach our goals.

Back to Blightly to meet Alison Chisnell, HR Director of Informa and author of The HR Juggler.  Alison’s song with a message is Billy Joel’s ‘All About Soul’.  She takes up the story:  “The context is that as an idealistic 18 year old, I had just begun a six month stint working in a children’s home in Zimbabwe as part of my gap year and in the early days I felt isolated, homesick and terrified that I had made the wrong decision. This song resonated as a reminder to commit fully to the adventure I was experiencing, to bring my values and passion to the task at hand, to ‘man-up’ and become more resilient and to accept that standing up and being counted was and is a good thing. Bland is rarely, if ever, good….so don’t be afraid to be you and get stuck in! Just because it isn’t easy doesn’t mean that it won’t be hugely rewarding.”

Staying on the theme of soul, we finish with Sharon Howard, who offers us lessons in life and business from Bill Withers about the importance of delegation, support and asking for help. We all need the help of others in order to succeed and they need us too, we all need somebody to lean on 🙂 A truly inspirational piece:

Coming up, we have more stories from bloggers and cool people all round the world.

Hope you have a Rock’n’Roll Christmas! – if you have not yet treated yourself to a free copy of my new micro book ‘Punk Rock People Management’, get an electronic copy by mailing me at peter@humdyn.co.uk.  I look forward to hearing your comments on this blog, suggesting other songs that have meaning for you.

Have a great Punk Rock Christmas - Click on the picture for the free book - Picture by Lindsay Wakelin Photography http://lindsaywakelinphotography.com/

Oops I did it again – Britney Spears and learning companies

I commented on the concept of a learning company in my posts on Lady Gaga and David Bowie recently.  The idea of a learning company is a company which learns faster than its competitors and speed of new product / service delivery is vital in today’s business world.  Many academics, such as Peter Senge, Chris Argyris and Peter Senge have commented on this idea, which Britney Spears unwittingly stumbled upon in her classic hit “Oops, I did it again”.  Let’s see Ms Spears in action:

In the context of business, “oops I did it again” refers to the tendency of businesses to repeat themselves, sometimes in the face of compelling evidence telling them to change course.  Organisational learning can mean several things:

Single loop learning – Where we keep existing values and introduce new behaviours – this is often dubbed ‘continuous improvement’, where we look for better ways to do existing things.

Double loop learning – A fundamental reassessment of the way we operate – often more radical and therefore even more difficult.

Companies find it intensely difficult to institute learning at an organisation wide level, be it single or double loop learning.  Marks and Spencer nearly went out of business through having such a strong culture that it did not learn from its customers.  Manifestations of this included a refusal to accept credit card payments for many years and their disastrous initial expansion into Europe.  On the other hand, Toyota have based much of their growth in recent years on behaving as an organisation that learns, alongside other approaches such as lean thinking.  This has given them an incredible edge compared with their competitors.  I have just come back from giving a keynote on this very topic at the 7th International HR Leadership Conference in Athens on this topic, which is central to a turnaround in the way in which businesses operate in the new world order.  I also met Evan Davis from the BBC programme Dragons’ Den last week, where we discussed the need for some new thinking if we are to create a sustainable turnaround in the economy and I shall post separately on this topic soon.

Lessons from Britney:  Don’t repeat yourself.  Learn and adapt.

I have scoured Britney Spears back catalogue for other songs that have a business leadership lesson in them and, frankly, I have failed.  “My perogative”, “Everytime”, “Toxic” – not one transferable business lesson, unless someone can spot something I have missed.  So, I have no particular reason for including the video of “Baby one more time”, except for its own value!

p.s. My new book ‘Punk Rock People Management – A no-nonsense guide to hiring, inspiring and firing staff’ is available FREE via the Punk Rock People Management webpage.   A print and e-book version are also available at PUNK PM.  Britney Spears gets a mention as an honorary punk rocker in the book, even though she is not one.

HR without all the boll...cks - Photo courtesy of Lindsay Wakelin Photography

Finally, let’s hear a Louis Armstrong mashup of Britney’s masterpiece: