Parallel Lines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Seasick Steve

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As part of my role at The Academy of Rock, I was blessed to witness a performance by Seasick Steve the other week at the Ramblin’ Man Fair in Maidstone. In case you are not aware, Steven Gene Wold is a 73 year old blues musician who left home at the age of 13 to avoid abuse by his stepfather, travelling as a hobo on freight trains for much of his early life. Having worked with people such as Joni Mitchell and been a studio engineer and producer, he made his breakthrough at the age of 62 after an appearance on “Later with Jools Holland”, thus proving that it’s never too late to start a new career in the music business.

Steve is living proof that less can equal more in life. Amongst the guitars he plays he has the one pictured above, made from car hubcaps and a broomstick. He also plays a one string guitar, a neat demonstration of the theory of constraints and his famous three string Trance Wonder, pictured below:

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Amongst the artists that we interviewed at the Ramblin’ Man Fair were Bernie Marsden, Marillion, Joanne Shaw Taylor, Bob Wayne, Jess and the Bandits, The Temperance Movement, Blue Oyster Cult, Aaron Keylock, The Quireboys, No Hot Ashes, The Rival Sons, narrowly missing Vic Reeves, Ian Anderson and Saxon. Check out our interviews with Music Giants at Interviews to see these in due course.

We finish with some of the great man’s work with one string, three stringed guitars etc.

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

Check our offerings on the blues and motivation at Keynotes.

Click on the picture to check the book out

Click on the picture to check the book out

The King is Dead – BB King RIP 1925 – 2015

I woke to the great sadness at the news that BB King died last night. For me as a guitarist his style of playing was instantly recognisable, built around purity and simplicity of the blues that goes straight to the heart. BB King would sometimes play an entire solo from more or less one note, using his unique ability to express himself with the minimalism that comes from genius, plus a sweet tone that became his trademark. This is a man playing from his heart, uncluttered, with perfect phrasing, pitch and poise and not a “speed king”. He also connected with his audiences through his voice, his humour and his authenticity.

I own a Gibson 335 partly as a result of BB King’s playing (King played a 355, but the 335 was the best I could do money wise at the time). There is nothing more to say except to share some of the great man’s work:

The Thrill is Gone – BB King 1925 – 2015

BB King

Bemoaning the blues

Inspired by David D’Souza’s latest post on the HR Tribunal hearing for Bruno Mars, here is another blues inspired piece of satire …

The Music of Business

Following on from my piece on the business blues I just had to post this fantastic piece of blues satire that was sent to me from Clarksdale MA

Blues Singer’s Woman Permitted To Tell Her Side

MS–Ida Mae Dobbs, longtime woman of Willie “Skipbone” Jackson, called a press conference Tuesday to respond to charges levied against her by the legendary Delta blues singer. Ida Mae Dobbs, woman of blues singer Willie “Skipbone” Jackson

“Despite what Mr. Jackson would have you believe, I am not an evil-hearted woman who will not let him be,” Dobbs told reporters. “I repeat: I am not an evil-hearted woman who will not let him be. To the contrary, my lovin’ is so sweet, it tastes just like the apple off the tree.”

Dobbs, accused of causing Jackson pain and breaking his heart by calling out another man’s name, categorically denied treating him in a low-down manner.

“He says he sends for his baby…

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Happy talk – Motivation unplugged

"Cos' I'm worth it" - A marketing executive from L'Oreal rocks out at the Marketing Directors Forum in Athens

I was reading the blog of Video Arts the other day on the issue of happiness at work.  It reminded me of the words of honorary punk rockers Rogers, Hammerstein and Captain Sensible, “Happy talk”.  Yes, it’s nice to be happy at work, but that’s only half the story.  We looked at the blues and motivation previously.  The Smiths’ classic “Heaven knows I’m miserable now” is the mantra for people stuck in jobs that don’t fit their skills, attitudes, inner or outer desires.  Let’s check out the dark side of the motivational equation:

What then are the reasons to be cheerful at work?  Certainly NOT because the 360 degree appraisal system has been put online in full colour,  because the team has won a set of fake plastic palm trees inscribed with the company mission statement, or when the HR department places a ‘People are our greatest asset’ plaque in every toilet cubicle.

It may be slightly quaint or even old fashioned to say this, but whatever happened to good old job design, as described by Hackman and Oldham?  They pointed out that people work well when they have well designed jobs.  These include some good old fashioned but not out of date factors:

  • Skill variety – using an appropriate variety of skills.
  • Task identity – being able to see the whole task.
  • Task significance – the extent to which people identify with the task and its importance to something wider.
  • Autonomy – giving some discretion over the way in which work is done.
  • Feedback – gaining an idea of how well people convert effort into performance.

In practical terms, many of the tried and tested methods of improving job design at work still have value.  For example:   vary work where possible to encourage skill variety;  assign work as a whole unit to enhance task significance;  delegate tasks to their lowest possible level to create autonomy and responsibility;   connect people to the impact of their work through feedback.  Some of the world’s best workplaces such as Prêt à Manger use these principles intuitively as they are common sense, although they are not commonly applied.  Others have made significant improvements by just following them as a conscious protocol, such as I have observed in work at The Royal College of Physicians.

My latest book Punk Rock People Management offers us three chords on motivation:

  • Design work according to Hackman and Oldham’s principles.
  • Eliminate pointless tasks from the daily grind that add no customer / stakeholder value.
  • Remember that reasons to be cheerful 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.

‘Punk Rock People Management – A no-nonsense guide to hiring, inspiring and firing staff’ is available for purchase of as a FREE download via the Punk Rock People Management webpage.  If you like this extract from the book, you will also LOVE my other book ‘Sex, Leadership and Rock’n’Roll’, acclaimed by Tom Peters, the daddy of them all.  Contact us to book your next conference keynote based on our heady mixture of business leadership and music.  Just back from Greece, and shortly appearing in Romania, South Africa and Slough – hardly a Rock’n’Roll schedule I admit! 🙂  Read a review by clicking on the picture:

Good companions

I leave not with Happy Talk by Captain Sensible, but with his rather more thoughtful anti-war / eco warrior song “Glad it’s all over” – The Captain ‘extinguished me’ with a fire hydrant at the Marquee during a Doctors of Madness gig, for which I am eternally grateful.

Got the business blues (again) – Motivation, HR, job design unplugged

A while back, I explored the business blues in a light-hearted fashion.  I was surprised and delighted at the reaction to this in my personal e-mails.  It seems that somehow, I struck a chord (or perhaps three - musical in-joke for the blues players out there ! :-) ).  I was told that a number of major companies have used music in a cathartic way to ‘purge their business demons’, by ‘getting it all out in their blues’.  Take a listen to this clip from BBC Radio 4’s Flagship ‘Today’ Programme.  Even John Humphries succumbed to my post in The Financial Times on the credit crunch blues:

To be more serious for a moment, here are some causes of ‘The Business Blues’ with antidotes.  For more like read “The Music of Business

1. Badly designed work and jobs – The antidote is simple to say but a little harder to apply.  Basically, design jobs using the wisdom of Herzberg’s work on satisfiers and dissatisfiers.  Take a look at the work of Hackman and Oldham.  This is explored in more depth in Punk Rock People Management.

2. An over-focus on measurement and objectives – What get measured gets done.  The corollary of this is that what is hard to measure may get ignored.  Everyone needs objectives to keep focus, but I would rather have open heart surgery without an anaesthetic than have 7 pages of specific objectives, critical success factors and key deliverables as I have seen on some occasions.  Appraisals and objectives are all about focus, not shopping lists that rival the length of ‘War and Peace’.

3. Poor leadership and management – It’s all too easy to then suggest that the antidote is to plug in some good leadership and management, almost like an I Phone app, yet this is a subject that requires more than a couple of lines to explore.  Plug and play may work with memory sticks but it does not in the world of business leadership and management.

I’ll leave you with Jimi Hendrix and Prince playing the blues.  These versions of Red House see Hendrix and Prince in rare moments of reflectivity.  The playing is thoughtful and poignant. In my humble opinion, Prince is Hendrix plus much better lighting ! 🙂 – there is an obvious musical influence but Prince has vastly improved the presentational aspects of his work across 30 or so years.  What do you think these two pieces?  Post your thoughts on the blog comments page.  To read previous posts on the genius of Prince see At The Hop (Farm) and Prince on Improvisation and Ingenuity.  Coming up soon, a post on Hendrix, Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck with respect to innovation style.

Contact me via the ACADEMY OF ROCK WEBSITE to reserve your FREE copy of “Punk Rock People Management – A no-nonsense guide to hiring, inspiring and firing staff”.

Bemoaning the blues

Following on from my piece on the business blues I just had to post this fantastic piece of blues satire that was sent to me from Clarksdale MA

Blues Singer’s Woman Permitted To Tell Her Side

MS–Ida Mae Dobbs, longtime woman of Willie “Skipbone” Jackson, called a press conference Tuesday to respond to charges levied against her by the legendary Delta blues singer. Ida Mae Dobbs, woman of blues singer Willie “Skipbone” Jackson

“Despite what Mr. Jackson would have you believe, I am not an evil-hearted woman who will not let him be,” Dobbs told reporters. “I repeat: I am not an evil-hearted woman who will not let him be. To the contrary, my lovin’ is so sweet, it tastes just like the apple off the tree.”

Dobbs, accused of causing Jackson pain and breaking his heart by calling out another man’s name, categorically denied treating him in a low-down manner.

“He says he sends for his baby, but I don’t come around,” Dobbs, a brownskin woman, said. “He says he sends for his baby, but I don’t come around. Well, the truth is, I do come, but he is out messing with every gal in town.”

During the press conference, Dobbs also disputed an Aug. 27 statement made by Jackson, who compared her to a dresser because someone is always going through her drawers.

“My drawers have not been gone through by any man but Willie “Skipbone” Jackson,” Dobbs said. “Neither Slim McGee nor Melvin Brown has ever been in my drawers. Nor has Sonny ‘Spoonthumb’ Perkins, nor any of those other no-good jokers down by the railroad tracks. My policy has always been to keep my drawers closed to everyone but Mr. Jackson, as I am his woman and would never treat him so unkind.”

In addition to denying Jackson’s drawer-opening allegations, Dobbs disputed charges of unrestricted sweet-potato-pie distribution, insisting that her pie is available only to Jackson.

“I do not give out my sweet potato pie arbitrarily, as I am not the sort of no-good doney who engages in such objectionable behavior,” Dobbs told reporters. “Only one man can taste my sweet potato pie, and I believe I have made it perfectly clear who that man is.” Dobbs noted that the same policy applies to her biscuits, which may be buttered only by Jackson.

While most of the accusations levied against Dobbs relate to her running around town with other men, she does face one far more serious charge, attempted homicide. On May 5, 1998, Jackson was rushed to the hospital and narrowly escaped death after ingesting nearly five ounces of gasoline. Jackson claimed that Dobbs tried to murder him, serving him a glass of the toxic fuel when he requested water. Dobbs dismissed the episode as “an accident.”

Dobbs, a short-dress, big-legged woman from Coahoma County, said it is not she but Jackson who should be forced to defend himself. According to Dobbs, Jackson frequently has devilment on his mind, staying up until all hours of the night rolling dice and drinking smokestack lightning.

“Six nights out of seven, he goes off and gets his swerve on while I sit at home by myself. Then he comes knocking on my door at 4 a.m., expecting me to rock him until his back no longer has any bone,” Dobbs said. “Is that any way for a man to treat his woman? I don’t want to, but if he keeps doing me wrong like this, I am going to take my lovin’ and give it to another man.”

Added Dobbs: “Skipbone Jackson is going to be the death of me.”

Blues death

Dobbs said that until she receives an apology from Jackson and a full retraction of all accusations, he will not be given any grinding.

“Mr. Jackson says that I stay out all night and that I’m not talking right. He says he has rambling on his mind as a result of my treating him so unkind. He says I want every downtown man I meet and says they shouldn’t even let me on the street,” Dobbs said. “Well, I refuse to allow my name to be dragged through the mud like this any longer. Unless my man puts an end to these unfair attacks on my character, I will neither rock nor roll him to the break of dawn. I am through with his low-down ways.”

To finish us off, here’s a bit of classic blues satire from the Blues Brothers.  I myself have experienced having bottles thrown at me at punk rock gigs, supporting skinhead bands, although there was no wire netting! 😦  This is far worse than anything that can happen in a business seminar.  The worst that can happen is getting 5 out of 10 on the happy sheet! 🙂