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How David Bowie Liberated the Talents of his Musicians

A borrowed copy of Aladdin Sane got me hooked on Bowie. In 1983 I was at Milton Keynes Bowl to witness the Serious Moonlight tour. It’s the only time in my life my breath has been taken away by the appearance of one of my heroes.
He is considered one of the most influential rock artists of all time and has had multiple worldwide platinum albums and generated a net worth of $230 million.
This is how he did it. 

1. Choose the Cast
“His genius was almost like a great casting director. He knew who to pick to work with, and he knew if he got out of the way and let them do their thing, he’d get the most out of them.”  Mike Garson, Keyboardist. 

2. Communicate the Vision
“He always had a vision, but he never micromanaged,” MG. Bowie would often tell a story about each song to set the boundaries and even encourage a new style by asking the musicians to play a combination of styles such as “Imagine baroque mixed with trip hop".

3. Provide Context
"David's modus operandi would be to throw a bunch of chord changes and a bunch of ideas in a very loose structure at the band” Tony Visconti, Producer. This would give the band something to immediately work on and great riffs often came from this method, for instance Robert Fripp’s high wailing guitar parts on Heroes. 

4. Liberate the Experts
"He wanted you to behave like an equal, that’s an incredibly generous way of working with someone, to make them feel that they’re wanted for what they bring to the table.” Guitarist, Gerry Leonard
As well as empowering the band to come up with the groove and licks, Bowie was expert at bringing out people’s truth and individual talents. For instance after a couple of takes he encouraged a keyboardist to ditch the blues solo and play some of the wild jazz David had heard him play in the clubs in New York. The keyboardist asked if he was sure that was what he wanted because that’s exactly why he wasn’t working when he met him! 
Read how another famous creative leader – Film Director Martin Scorsese – brings out the best in his actors

5. Hydrate the seeds
“The first time we worked together he said, ‘Maybe you could build German gothic cathedral architecture out of guitar’. “Other times it was, ‘This should be like Jackson Pollock,’ or ‘This should be like Salvador Dali, but with melting guitars instead of melting clocks. - Reeves Gabrels, Guitarist
This quote clearly demonstrates Bowie’s ability to use imagery as a tool to spark imaginative contributions from his team.

6. Melt Fear
“The lack of fear that he showed, that’s something that went through his whole musical life,” Ken Scott, Producer. Bowie was never afraid to change his persona which strongly modeled courage. This encouraged his musicians to take risks as well that led to some extraordinary music.

7. Leave a Legacy
“We had our glory years” says Scott. “It’s something I look back on with such fond memories. The way David trusted me to help him achieve his dream is just astounding.”KS
“I called him the Picasso of Rock and Roll” Nile Rodgers
“David had a profound effect on my life, and I can see that now. He was a master and I was an apprentice and I learned a lot from him.” GL
Bowie was so effective at leading his musicians that they contributed magnificently to his achievements and were profoundly grateful for the experience.


How Wolves Change Rivers

Watch this video to see the incredible ripple effect in a natural system. You will be amazed by the results generated by one simple decision.

Every decision you make as a leader has a knock-on or ripple effect. Your business is a system.

1. Decide the culture you want

2. Make and communicate decisions that will lead to people doing the behaviours that match the culture.

3. Congratuate and Celebrate the desired behaviours and the results will flow.



White Paper - Key To Customer Centricity

The shift from Product to Customer Centricity is becoming more and more evident and those companies that are getting this right are delighting customers and growing their profits.

What distinguishes customer-centric organizations from other companies that proclaim their customer focus? In short, they’ve moved beyond lip service and re-oriented their entire operating model around the customer. By gaining a truly deep understanding of a customer's current and future needs they are able to develop customer intuition and provide a personalised service and product combination that adds value above and beyond what the customer expects. 

How to make the shift to Customer Centricity? - Download the white paper here


This applies to both B2B and B2C situations and this short video is a wonderful example of how a business switched it's whole focus from product (demanding) to customer centric (helping). I like this so much because it is an example of an industry that one may have thought it impossible to make the switch. Their profits have increased significantly and their customers are really happy!

Rather than me point out the key learnings here I recommend that you watch the video (3.03 mins) and draw your own conclusions.



50 Most Innovative Companies 2013

"Our annual guide to the state of Innovation in our economy, featuring the businesses whose innovations are having the greatest impacts across their industries and our culture as a whole"

The business world continues to speed up
Only companies that can evolve swiftly will still be in the race
Evolutionary companies encourage and support Innovation
Innovation leads and creates markets

This report on the world's 50 most innovative companies has just been published by Fast Company.

Any guesses who is Number 1? It's not apple.

I like this report as it gives you the headlines and also, when you click on the company name, you will discover how they do innovation.

I have no affiliations with Fast Company and when I read the stories it gave me some excellent insight and inspiration and I thought you may like that too.


Now Shut Up and Listen!

At Christmas time our thoughts tend to focus on helping others and often, if we act on that thought, then we give people something we think they need.

Ernesto Sirolli went to Zambia as a leader of an aid project to show the Zambian's (who had no agriculture) how to grow food. They taught the locals to plant italian tomatoes and zucchinis and of course the local's had no interest in doing that and had to be paid to do it, if they showed up at all! Ernesto and his colleagues were amazed that the local people would not have agriculture in such a fertile valley. But instead of asking the locals how come they were not growing anything, they simply said "Thank God we're here, just in the nick of time to save the Zambian people from starvation.

And of course everything in Africa grew beautifully. Magnificent tomatoes grew to bountiful sizes and the aid team turned to the locals and said "Look how easy agriculture is". When the tomatoes were nice and ripe and red, overnight, some 200 hippos came out of the river and ate everything. Ernesto exclaimed to the Zambian's "My God, the hippos!"

And the Zambians replied "Yes, that's why we have no agriculture here"

"Why didn't you tell us?"  

"You never asked".

So - if you are leading a team and wondering what they need to be successful in 2013, maybe asking them and really listening may save you a lot of time, lead to far greater levels of success and keep you safe from the hippos!

Watch Ernesto's funny and impassioned TED talk here

Be inspiring, Be attentive, Be safe.