Reward and Rock and Roll

ImageWhat are the similarities between reward and rock and roll?  At first glance not very much.  But the pending publication of Peter Cook’s new book “The music of business” got me thinking.  I first came across Peter when I undertook the creativity and innovation module of my MBA.  He was leading an improvised jam session to demonstrate the application of techniques of innovation and creativity.  I have, and still do, find his approach to business strategy meaningful, impactful and most of all, fun. 

Peter Cook is a polymath.  An unusual man who straddles several different “worlds” and not only brings them together but is able to translate and communicate the lessons from one field in to other fields of his expertise.  He is a gifted musician, educator consultant and social media expert.  A real renaissance man.

What has this to do with the world of reward?  There are many lessons from the world of rock and roll that could be applied in reward (albeit at a somewhat lower volume).  If we take creativity and innovation we see the examples of David Bowie and Kylie Minogue who constantly reinvent their persona to meet current tastes and trends.  We in reward need to constantly reinvent our products, communications and approaches to meet the demands of our challenging client base not to mention the changing agendas of regulators and rule makers.

To me, a large part of reward is the communication of our message.  Rock stars (or perhaps their management) are masters at segmenting their audience and thus their customers by all the normal demographics such as age and country. They then communicate short, impactful messages about the products they have produced to sell to their chosen demographic. We also need to segment our client base so we can provide meaningful products and messages to get the best bang for our buck.  I use the Prato rule – 80% of our impact will come from 20% of our communication.  Getting that 20% right will make the difference in our reward space between success and failure.

Leadership is another key area in which Peter is a specialist.  The lessons in product, strategy and marketing leadership in the face of changing environments, technologies and fashions by the rock industry (look at the move from CD’s to MP3’s)  can be usefully and creativity learned and applied to our own fields.  I have written before on how social media is going to not only change the way we communicate our message but will change the very products that we offer our clients.

I am a strong believer in using creativity in my reward work.  Part of creativity is being willing to move outside our comfort zone, outside our normal models of thinking and open ourselves to the unexpected.  Peter Cook’s new book and his general approach is about exactly that.  It is about moving outside the normal MBA approaches to business and to look to other industries and ways of doing business to allow us to think creativity about both our day to day activities but also about wider issues of strategy formulation – and perhaps to do it in a fun and interesting way.   Now where did I put my Stratocaster?

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