Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Points of Inflexion - Day 17

Day 17
17 - the number of syllables in a Haiku (5+7+5)
"An apple blossom
Trembling on a sunlit branch
From the weight of bees" - Richard Wright (1908-1960)
Peter Cook wrote today's piece - he is an amazing man in so many ways. As he mentions below, his career to date has had three distinct cycles (Pharmaceuticals, Academia and Consulting), but his life is and always has been interlaced and powered by rock music. If you get the chance to spend and evening with Peter, ideally with his guitar and a group of friends, I would urge you to join him - you will leave with a beaming grin. Peter writes his "musings" in an engaging blog and is an active participant on social media (follow him on Twitter via @AcademyOfRock or catch one of his rock interviews).

I have added no pictures or videos to Peter's piece - it is all his own work.


I am a massive fan of Professor Charles Handy's work, having met him a few times over the years. His work on portfolio careers in "The Empty Raincoat" resonated strongly with me when I started my business 20 years ago, in terms of the need to recognise that everything has it's "Sigmoid Curve". The important move in personal or business life is to recognise when you are at a point of inflexion and start a new Sigmoid Curve, as shown in this diagram:

Reflecting on my career, it seems that I have reinvented myself about every 18 years in overlapping cycles, just like the sigmoid curve above: 18 years in science, leading teams to develop life-saving pharmaceuticals; 18 years teaching MBA's in academia and; 18+ years starting up and running a business. Around 2008 I foresaw a need to change once again, as the recession began. As the end of 2014 approaches, I'm reflecting on some of the results of the decisions I made to make some fundamental changes back in 2008 that are leading me into my "4th age".
Ain't no mountain high enough ...
There have been many high points in 2014. To be effective as a consultancy business these days, you need to be a global player. In business terms, the partnership with Nadine Hack's Global Network is a major landmark in our development as a global consultancy business and I'm humbled to have been chosen to be in such superb company. As I write this Nadine are I are formulating a plan to work together in Athens next year. The other landmark achievement was when I won a prize for my work from Sir Richard Branson. I can hardly believe my luck, although some of my clients and colleagues tell me it comes down to a lot of hard work. The truth is that it has been the result of both "deliberate and emergent strategy", otherwise known as plans and accidents :-) Whatever the causes, these events have changed my perceptions as to what I might be capable of achieving in 2015.
Nadine Hack is a world leader in trustworthy behaviour and leadership

Comparing notes on Virgin albums - Meeting Sir Richard Branson

Frustrations, False Starts and Failures
Fame doesn't pay the bills and the year has continued to be "lumpy" business wise, with a couple of larger clients getting me to spend considerable time on projects which have then not proceeded ,due to internal or external changes, which caused priorities to change. One particular example was a Norwegian shipping company that requested a leadership programme, which required considerable work to respond to. It turned out that they were simply benchmarking and had no intention of commissioning a real project. Another was for a company that had commissioned a programme of OD support, which was then curtailed due to one of the company's senior executives pursuing their own agenda and playing politics within the company. This left me with a loss in income in December which I cannot replace at short notice. I've also been taken for a ride on a couple of occasions, by people asking me to speak at conferences for free in exchange for promises of in kind benefits which never materialised. I stopped working for local Government institutions several years back due to a plethora of such time wasting requests. A repeated series of such things can kill small businesses and I've often wanted to invent an "authenticity tester" to separate the sheep from the goats in this respect. However I have not yet invented this device!! :-) The lesson here is to find better ways of doing the due diligence on larger projects, although sometimes the client themselves does not know that their own business is also experiencing a point of inflexion when making plans to engage external assistance. As a small niche business, sometimes there is little to be done other to dust yourself down and move on, rather like Jake and Elwood in "The Blues Brothers”:

If unable to view, you can access the interview on YouTube: : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Vl1byi6wXE

Seeds of growth
That said, many times things work out fine and we've also had a series of very enjoyable consultancy and speaking projects in Estonia, Ireland, Romania and Germany in 2014 and promises of others in Greece and the USA in 2015. I've had equivalent joy in my musical life at The Academy of Rock - interviews with George Clinton, Roberta Flack, John Mayall and, recently, joint performances with Meatloaf's female singing partner Patti Russo at Henley Business School, a corporate gig for HP's annual awards ceremony and an awesome gig in London with Bernie Tormé, guitarist for Ozzy Osbourne and Deep Purple's Ian Gillan.
With Patti Russo at Henley Business School, Bernie Tormé at London's Borderline, at the HP awards in Brighton, interviewing George Clinton (Prince's spiritual Godfather) and discussing HR leadership and the Virgin Way in Romania. Below our interview with Roberta Flack

If unable to view, you can access the interview on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OWL1i2e9rok

If your business is to become a true Learning Company, this involves both what Peter Senge calls "learning" and more importantly "unlearning". So, in pursuing my new pathway as a global consultancy and keynote speaker and performer alongside my role as a business author and facilitator, what have I had to learn and let go of in order to gain momentum for change?
Learning and unlearning to adapt
To do new things, this means letting go of the "familiar". I've had to turn down a few projects this year, which, although they would pay a wage, would have filled my diary, making it impossible to pursue these new directions. Leadership is as much about saying no as it is saying yes to requests.
When pursuing larger projects, there is more risk of companies defaulting on their requests. One needs to be resilient, both emotionally and financially to "play with the big boys". Fortunately I've never had a loan in 20 years of business and have survived the longest and deepest recession in recent times, so I feel well prepared to deal with such things. Nonetheless it is galling to spend months of your time in preparation for projects which get cancelled due to wider strategic changes. I must get better at dusting myself down from such occurrences and, hopefully, minimising them in the first place.
In pursuing a global strategy, I need to develop exceptional collaborative bonds with people who I have not necessarily spent a lot of time working face to face with. This investment in relationships ultimately leads to a return in terms of more significant and rewarding projects. Trust matters much more when you are working at a distance with people and this must be given the proper amount of time.
For 2015 I'm looking to develop the relationship as a writer for Virgin.com. I'm also hoping to launch a new groundbreaking book on innovation and creativity. To continue to develop the Human Dynamics and Academy of Rock brands so that they compete well with the "big boys". I'm hoping to receive less fake requests for assistance.
To adapt, sometimes one needs to switch the points towards an unknown destination ...

1 comment:

  1. I really appreciate your candor about challenges (along with joys) you face in your "4th age."