Reward and Rock and Roll

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Introduction

What have the worlds of David Bowie, Black Sabbath and reward have in common apart from dealing  in large amounts of money?  An outstanding book, “The business of music”,,(http://www.academy-of-rock.co.uk/readnow/ ) by the renaissance man, Peter Cook, innovation Guru and rock musician, gives the answers.   Issues of creativity, innovation, communication and leadership have always been important in the reward leader’s toolkit.  Peter’s book provides an amusing but erudite Hayes instruction manual on these key areas.

 

The author – Peter Cook

I met Peter on the creativity and innovation module of my MBA.     He was leading an impromptu jam session by a group of senior managers to illustrate the nature of innovation and leadership. He is a polymath who is a gifted musician, writer, educator, consultant and social media expert.  But, he is also the most unusual of men who works in several different domains, yet manages to bring together these worlds of music, business strategy, innovation practices and writing with high energy and infectious enthusiasm.   His gift for story telling laced with personal anecdotes, key writings from the likes of Charles Handy and powerful metaphors make reading this book a joyous and educational experience.

 

Creativity and innovation

Peter uses the multiple reinventions of Kylie Minogue and David Bowie as lessons in innovation.  We can draw parallels in reward.  We need to constantly reinvent our products; if only as a response to the every changing regulatory and political environment.  As Peter points out it is just not enough to keep doing the same thing time after time and expect a different result.  Innovation is the art of taking the existing and making it more. 

 

I have a personal view that it is time for reward to reinvent itself from being a semi passive technical function to be more assertive, to set agendas rather than respond to them and to be less of a backing singer and move more in to the spotlight.

 

Another excellent musical example that he quotes is a group of jazz musicians improvising.  Each member of the group picks up and builds on the rhythms of the other group members while still maintaining the coherent soundscape.  This is another key skill in reward leadership.  We must improvise both on our own but also as a part of the HR and business team, while maintaining a constant internal and external harmony with our customers and stakeholders.

 

Communication

The Music of Business draws out some excellent lessons in communication.  As Peter points out, this is the soul of music:  talking to an audience, often at a deep, almost spiritual level.  Who has not got a favourite piece of music that conjures up some important memory or emotion?  Yet musicians and their producers tightly target the music at a very specific demographic segment.  I have an acquaintance, Tom Robinson who was a very successful musician (2468 Motorway and Sing if you’r glad to be gay for example).  Last year I attended a concert by him as EMI had re-released a new anthology of his music.  When I entered the concert venue the vast majority of people there were clones of me!  Tom’s appeal was to a very specific demographic – he has also reinvented himself as an equally successful award winning radio presenter.

 

The lessons for reward are clear.  We must clearly design and market our products for specific demographic segments.  We must communicate to our customers at the level of feelings and meaning as well at perhaps more superficial levels of value delivered.  Peter’s book gives excellent insights as to what good communication means and perhaps some technical hints as to how to carry out this communication at a deeper level.

 

Leadership

Peter writes engagingly on the subject of leadership.  It, alongside business strategy are at the heart of this book.  He quotes multiple examples and tells fascinating stories of both good and poor leadership.  He reflects on the musical leadership and longevity of some of the world’s top musical acts.  As technologies and tastes change many in the world of music have disappeared without trace (and think of the many companies who have done the same, or like Kodak perhaps failed to change with the times) yet others have not only survived but prospered as we have moved from vinyl through MTV to MP3 and beyond.

 

The parallels for reward are all too clear.  We must provide leadership that evolves with changes in the technological and regulatory environments.   Sometime this will mean revolution and sometimes reinvention.  Going along with the status quo is to go along with the dinosaurs

 

Business strategy

.Business strategy is at the heart of “The music of business.”.  Peter’s discussion on business strategy issues like strong culture range from the music of AC/DC to Marks and Spencer, taking in the writings of Michael Porter, Mintzberg and Andrew Sentance.  Peter gives equal weight to both the design of business strategy and also its execution.  He note examples of both good and poor strategy and execution.  It is clear that perfection in both is a requirement for success in business – music or otherwise.

 

The application to reward is clear.  We need a well thought out, innovative strategy with excellent and well thought out execution.  Most reward leaders are good at execution – but perhaps lag in the development of good business strategy.

 

Conclusion

The Music of Business is an engaging and erudite discussion on business strategy, creativity and innovation painted on the canvas of rock music.  It is a book you can dip in to or devour from cover to cover as I did.  It is the type of book that gets you thinking and may well take you off on unexpected journeys.

 

For those of us in reward it has some powerful lessons from outside our normal comfort zone.    My experience of the best reward leaders are those who think outside the box, have imagination and a strong cognitive framework in which to exercise their daily activities.   This book will help develop a different way of thinking and viewing the world – if only by creating a different mind-set about The Music of Business.

 

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