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Peter Cook - Four Way Interview

Peter Cook leads Human Dynamics, offering Business and Organisation Development. He also delivers keynotes around the world that blend business intelligence with parallel lessons from music via The Academy of Rock. Author of and contributor to eleven books on business leadership, his three passions are science, business and music, having led innovation teams for 18 years to develop life-saving drugs  including the first treatments for AIDS, Herpes and the development of Human Insulin. All his life since the age of four playing music. His latest book is Brain Based Enterprises.

Why science, creativity and business?

Having wanted to be a scientist or a musician at the age of five I eventually achieved both, making my early career through the scale up of pharmaceuticals such as the first HIV / AIDS treatment and human Insulin whilst keeping music as a hobby. I believe that my passion for asking questions comes from science. It is a habit that has served me well and also got me into a bit of trouble over the years! More so than ever, we need to ask better questions if we are to advance as a species in a complex and connected world. Too many times we seek 'solutions' when science teaches us curiosity, experimentation and reflective practice.

At the age of 30 I studied for a Diploma in Management and then an MBA. I was fortunate to do this at the Open University, an institution that did not teach business to the standard MBA model, but instead asked students to think deeply and actually try 'experiments' in management. This was epitomised in its flagship 'Creativity, Innovation and Change' programme, which extended my curiosity and creativity into the field of business. It also opened my eyes to the use of the arts in business and inspired me to leave a well-paid job to start a business that fuses these elements via The Academy of Rock.

I believe that business is the engine of progress, albeit that it now gets a bit of a bad name in some circles due to 'capitalism without control'. Indeed business leaders do need an ethical compass to guide them and some a sound basis for their decisions. My scientific mind questions flimsly management and business thinking whilst my musical side encourages divergent thinking about business issues in ways that traditional business gurus do not.

Why this book?

Many of us are sleepwalking into the new era of information. For example, I heard on the radio this morning that the police are now unable to cope with the volume of evidence available to them via text and social media messages etc.  Instead of 'drowning in data’, we need to learn to 'swim with information' and this book addresses the opportunities and threats inherent in living in a data rich society. Brain Based Enterprises puts forward the notion that we can choose to engage and augment our lives with machines and intelligence or reject the notion. We will need every ounce of our intelligence to ride the waves of the world to come as the notion of lifelong learning comes of age.

What's next?

I’m currently working with a company to engender a culture of creativity and innovation within their enterprise to give them a sustainable edge. I am also designing a few keynote events around the world based on my unique fusion of business academia with parallel insights from music. I am also cooking up a proposal for a ninth book with Penguin. This will use my three passions of science, business and music to write a distinctly different business title.

What's exciting you at the moment?

I continue to be excited by developments in science that will help us lead longer, more productive lives. I started life working in pharmaceutical development bringing life-saving drugs to market and the reason many of us live beyond the age of 40 is down to advances in medicine, hygiene and nutrition. Our advances in science, neuroscience and technology will allow us to realise that ambition


Aside from that, I continue to be inspired by Richard Branson’s combination of capitalism with social good, a lesson for many business leaders.  His work on the oceans, environment and greater understanding in a global world is vital in help us act as better citizens of planet Earth.

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