Ecology of Knowledge – Menu of services

Ecology of Knowledge Menu V1 front

I have finally managed to create a menu of services that I am happy with. Click on either image to enlarge. The PDF version can be downloaded here, a version complete with prices is available on request..

Ecology of Knowledge Menu V1 no pricesand yes, before you ask, I do have 25 years experience of providing discos and music quizzes so why not end (or punctuate) your event with a participatory musical high.

Composite Materials and Resilience

limehouse

On Friday I spent a very enjoyable night at the Bourne Corn Exchange watching what I believe must be the best tribute band in existence, Limehouse Lizzy.

Now I never switch off at gigs looking for examples of innovation and this night was no exception. Singer Wayne Ellis (in the centre of the picture) is a hugely powerful vocalist and bass player but tonight he had a very bad throat infection. After a couple of songs he looked ready to give up when up stepped guitarist Tim Read, on the left and sang lead vocal through the rest of the set.

I realised three important lessons watching the band with its new dynamic:

  • When the Russian, Altshuler analysed the patent database in the 1960s to come up with his 40 TRIZ inventive principles, number 40 was ‘Composite Materials’ and here it was being illustrated by a guitarist who had the ‘composite’ skills of being able to sing and play guitar at the same time.
  • When a system, such as a band like Limehouse Lizzy needs to be resilient, they have to maintain some surplus capacity ie the ability of band members to sing. If the band had simply recruited guitarists who could play guitar they would have had to have cancelled the gig.
  • When he realised the vocals would be taken care of, Wayne simply smiled and told us gruffly “ I will just sit back and play bass then” which made me realise sometimes that the striker needs to get back and help out in defence.

#TRIZ Trends at a beer festival

Experiment02 TRIZ Trends at a Beer FestivalClick on the flyer above to read more clearly.

The proceedings of the day will be summarised as a Slide Show and published on Slideshare as soon after the event as possible.

Seasoned KM and Innovation professionals may want to combine this event with the preceding ecology of knowledge masterclass plus  beer festival the day before on Tuesday 19th August.

Anyone staying on after 17:30 to watch bands and eat more german sausages will not be the responsibility of Ecology of Knowledge.

Time for Future Backwards

With this great new device you can have an anticipatory awareness of the present  that emerges second by second, minute by minute. Not only that but it holds the time accurately enough that you could calculate your longitude should you be travelling east or west.

When the big hand is on the Past and the little hand is on Heaven it is time for lunch. When the big hand is on Heaven and the little hand is on Hell its time to go down the pub.

Hexagons ‘flat side up’ versions are also available.  A deluxe version will include an MP3 player that plays the Beach boys album ‘Today’ closely followed by ‘Living in the past’,  ‘Highway to Hell’ and ‘Stairway to Heaven’.

 

Butlins Rock and Blues Festival – Skegness 2014

“We built this Skeggy, we built this Skeggy on Rock and Roll”

This was my tenth year at the Great British Rock and Blues Festival.

butlins 01

First up were Slack Alice who had some impressive new material. Not sure about singer Cliff Stockers new hat which he seemed reluctant to wear in case it gave him ‘hat hair’.

butlins 02Then came my mate Rob and Dr Feelgood. I really don’t know where he gets the energy. It was exactly forty years ago that I was playing the drums behind him at the Melody Maker Folk/Rock Competition at Newcastle Polytechnic. We didn’t win but he prowled the stage exactly the same as he does now.

butlins 03

Last up was the Quireboys who were exceptionally good. I saw them at CRF last year but this was a different kind of show and they really do play to entertain.

butlins 04At Butlins the music never stops so at 12:30 we were off into Jaks bar to catch Blues Commotion. Well it was my mate Tims 50th birthday after all.

butlins 04bThats Tim on the left (age 50 and one day). It has become part of the ritual to get out to Gibralter Point NNR to do a bit of bird watching and although the hides and lakes were disappointingly devoid of birds we did spot (or at least David pointed us towards) a pair of little egrets, a merlin and a flock of scotas.

butlins 05

We had to get back to camp swiftly to catch Stray who were originally responsible for me growing my hair and joining a band. Del was joined on stage by Pete Dyer for this gig which directed the set, quite rightly, towards the 1975/76 albums. Joined by Cherry Lee Mewis for a couple of songs this was an event rather than just going through the old songs.

butlins 06Next up Groundhogs who, given we knew Tony McPhee had had a stroke a year or two ago, did remarkably well. Eccentric Man, Split parts 1 and 2, Cherry Red.

After dinner we were back in our seats for the Yardbirds (I forgot to get a photo) who have a great strategy to keep their music sustainable, recruit twenty-somethings as replacements. At first we thought this was a travesty but the quality of singing and guitar playing was stunning. The whole place sang along. I was especially pleased to see them play ‘Back Where I started’ as drummer and original Yardbird Jim McCarty was in the Box of Frogs (the 1983 Yardbirds re-union album which I love).

butlins 06bAnticipation was high just watching Carl Palmers drum kit being assembled. I saw the ELP at Newcastle City Hall back in 1971 and, shhhhh, I never really liked them, but tonight I was forgiving and as the set went on through Welcome, Pictures at an Exhibition, Fanfare for the Common Man and a whole lot more it was great to see Carl enjoying it so much. So much that he overran ridiculously and still demanded a double encore. It is a great privilege to see such talent at these festivals.

butlins 07Much later than billed on ran Eddie and the Hotrods who were fantastic. Such a fuller sound since (John Otways) Richard joined them. Barrie Masters has a great trick with his braces to get the females at the front of the stage to participate in the fun. His T-Shirt reminded us that not all rockers survive long enough to play Butlins in their eighties and RIP Hotrods founder Dave Higgs who died just before Christmas last year.

butlins 07bSunday was dull and wet outside, we never even got out onto the beach, but inside the Reds Arena, everyone in the camp was in early to see Wilko Johnson. He certainly didn’t disappoint. Touring relentlessly despite being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer refusing any treatment. Roxette, Back in the Night and just about everyone in the place wiped a tear from their eye as an elongated Bye Bye Johnnie Be Good had some of the fans waving to him.

Trever Burton of the Move replaced Stan Webb and Chicken Shack who according to Twitter had mistakenly arrived a day earlier and then gone home.

butlins 07cI think we all thought that the next late addition to the line-up might be ‘good fun’ but no-one was prepared for the style and delivery of Ray Dorset and Mungo Jerry who had many people saying he was in their top three acts. In the Summertime, Baby Jump, Long legged Woman dressed in Black and a terrific Roadhouse Blues. Another star who seemed amazed at the great atmosphere and response he would not leave the stage. A lot of this reticence to leave was due to being joined by Stevie Smith on harmonica, as they and never played together since 40 years ago so another great moment to savour.

butlins 08After Sunday dinner and a very flat Auburn Acoustic who walked off early (everyone was next door watching Chantel McGregor, it was a bit disappointing that Jefferson Starship were without Paul Kantner after all the advance publicity. This was quickly made up by the thrill of seeing David Freiberg, a founder member of Quicksilver Messenger Service especially when they played ‘What about Me’ which was a track from 1970 that took me back to the old Arts Centre in Sunderland. Singer Cathy Richardson didn’t disappoint either and her Janis Joplin on ‘Me and Bobby McGee was sensational, not surprising as she was in the Broadway musical ‘Love, Janis’ in the US for years. For some reason they do not play “We built this City”.

butlins 09We decided that our final band should be a proper rock band and Oliver Dawson’s Saxon fit that bill a treat. I still think of them as Son of a Bitch, regulars at Sunderland Boilermakers in 1976. New singer Bri Shaughnessy from Barnsley has settled in well and is hilarious in his banter with the audience. This is the band that inspired Spinal Tap and they really do not take themselves seriously but they pack a real punch with some great songs. Rock and Roll Gypsy, 747 Strangers in the night and the endless singalong Wheels of Steel. Bri like Carl Palmer, Ray Dorset and many others actually said that he didn’t want to leave the stage, getting his picture taken with the audience. I was in the mosh pit and shook Steve Dawson’s sweaty hand as the feedback subsided. Looking at my photos I noticed that some bands pretend to throw their guitars skywards at the end but I caught Graham Oliver doing it for real.

butlins 11As I walked back to the chalet for a final sleep the place had a magical feel to it. Thank you Butlins for an unbelievably great weekend.

[all photos Rondon – Ecology of Knowledge Ltd]

[the following video by punkrocksal ]

Embedded Knowledge – Russian Style

I am looking for great examples of how knowledge might be embedded into a process to ensure it’s benefits are not missed. This is an essential part of any feedback loop in a successful knowledge ecosystem
I realised that this was precisely what G. S. Altshuler did when he analysed the patterns in the patents database all those years ago.

Altshuler called this resource and associated methods, TRIZ. Now if you have a problem, any problem, all you need do is work out the contradiction eg if I increase the strength it gets too heavy, and look it up on the TRIZ matrix. Or identify the benefits and or harms and resolve using TRIZ standard solutions. Better still, look at the TRIZ trends of evolution and invent the ’emerging future’.

I often hear the misunderstanding that “yes, but TRIZ only works for engineering problems”. That view us do wrong, take the example above: if you have a project team that needs to be more effective (strength ) but then would have too many members (weight of moving object) look this contradiction up on the TRIZ matrix and among other potential solutions it suggests inventive principle 40 ‘composite materials’. In other words employ project members that are multi-skilled.

I still don’t understand why TRIZ is not taught in schools or at the very least at the start of every further education programme. Why would any organisation not want to be able to solve problems systematically and to trigger so many options. Once you understand the principles of TRIZ it is genuinely simple to apply, and as the project example above illustrates, is far from being technical, directive linear thinking.

Rock the Business – CRF 2012

musicbusinessI have just bought Peter Cook’s highly acclaimed book on The Music of Business (buy it here now)

I swear I have not yet opened the cover but realised that I wrote the following piece (but never published it) about innovation occurring at last years Cambridge Rock Festival and thought I would publish it before I get accused of stealing ideas from Peter. So here goes…

It was a Friday night at the Cambridge Rock Festival back in July 2012. Mick and I sat having a welcome cup of coffee, surveying the site. So many of our rock heroes were playing over the four days, mostly with new younger musicians that still wanted to tour and had yet to get so annoyed at the ‘rock gods’ that they would vow never to play with them again. The day before we had seen excellent copycat bands You Too, Ultimate Eagles, ZZ Tops and today Mick had his first experience of John Otway. I still had a twitch list of Del Bromham, Mick Ralphs, Vernon Allan, Thijs Van Leer, ex members of UFO and a number of newly formed prog bands. So we surveyed the site and realised that we had so far been pretty devoid of innovation and change which is such a strong driving force in my ‘working’ life.

So we wondered ‘what goes on in the Acoustic tent?’. A passing friend said that ‘Fred’s House’ were just about to take the stage (which was quiet enough for only 20 minutes between changeover of bands on Stage 2). So we peered in and a youthful crowd with an even younger band drew us in. Four or five songs later we were hooked. A terrific show, all self written songs, all with a charm and enthusiasm that we could see this was a band really going places. No one left during the performance. Mick had to queue to buy their latest and only EP. We thought ‘things can’t get better than this’, an unexpected highlight of the festival so far.

We wandered out, our spirits lifted, so this is where the innovation and new growth takes place, in a small tent, where the big bands and most of the thousands present are not aware of the soon to rise S-curve.

We dipped into the other stages but we had tasted new found riches and so quickly got back in the Acoustic Tent for the final act, Velvet Handled Revolver. We watched the band set up in amusement as we joked about travelling through a time vortex back to the sixties. And why the deckchairs? At 10pm as the sound from outside died down they took to the stage. Sitting down they began a mesmerising acoustic rhythm reminiscent of Penguin Cafe Orchestra. The keyboard came in and it was the jangly sounds of the Doors. Then the singer, Lee Vernon, looking like a smart young Lee Brilleaux grabbed the mike and sang in the most gravelly and luscious tones that made Chris Rea and Rod Stewart sound like choir boys.

The songs progressed, the rhythms were amazing, the sound and experience was much greater than the sum of its parts. More and more punters were welcomed into the tent. After 20 minutes we were worried that the noise of cheering might be a problem for the other stages. Then the singer revealed that they had a plan, to be heard over the noise. He announced that they were about to go electric. I was so in ‘sixties mode’ that I shouted ‘Judas’, triggering much laughter and several anecdotes from Lee about heckling that covered the transformation that was about to take place.

Kicking away the deckchairs they launched into a string of songs that just got better and better. Tight intricate rhythms punctuated by full on Doors style keyboards this was something new and fresh but bringing together elements already proven to be successful. Exaptation at its most sublime. They really rocked and the sound was loud but crystal clear from an amazing Bose sound system. As we sailed past the 10:25 scheduled finish we were visited by the great Dave Roberts (festival organiser) who coordinates and keeps CRF going. Apparently we can go on till midnight and he wants us on the main stage next year. A cheer went up, whether this was true or a great joke, who cares, we were watching a band at the peak of their creativity, working their socks off.

pearl

Another sixties moment occurred part way through but this time in reverse. This really reminded me of ‘Blow up’ the 1966 film about a be-suited David Bailey who photographed young ladies:

It was an amazing set, timed at one hour and forty minutes. Songs were being repeated, the audience were cheering and whistling. Four times a steward from the Second Stage came to ask us to turn down the sound and each time our sound engineer mimed a turning down motion at his console. This set was worth the entire festival ticket fee itself. I bought their new album and acoustic EP and can’t stop listening to them in the car.

So my thoughts about innovation:

  • Its often about bringing together already existing ideas in new ways
  • It happens where you least expect it
  • The existing big players may be totally unaware of it until too late.
  • When people are focussed and encouraged they can deliver much more than the sum of their parts.
  • We sometimes have to go back and start from a stage in the past as opposed to progressing what we have now.
  • An atmosphere of deprivation helps (this was the only way they could get on the bill)
  • Time restriction – blow us away in 20 minutes
  • Bringing together a group of different individuals and nurturing and protecting them until they build enough material, their own style/sound

NB: Don’t get me wrong the rest of the festival was fantastic but this was the story and the performance that will stick with me for a very long time.

POSTSCRIPT [Limited number of tickets remaining for launch of next album at Bedford – get yours at www.pearlhandledrevolver.com ]

 

 

Butlins Rock & Blues Festival – Skegness 2013

This was my ninth rock and blues festival at Butlins Skegness, and because my previous reviews still get so much traffic I now feel obliged to write up my experiences, so apologies for the delay and here goes:

I have this strange theory that my life has gone into reverse and that I am seeing all the rock bands I saw in my teens in almost perfect reverse order.

Hawkwind 2013

I first saw Hawkwind when the Space Ritual tour came down to Earth in Sunderland back in 1972 and this current lineup are living up to that fantastic back catalog. Opening with Masters of the Universe and closing with Silver Machine the theatrics, smoke, thumping rhythms and spectacle was unmissable.

Dennis Dunnaway 2013

My favourite album back in 1971 was ‘Love it to death by Alice Cooper which I played over and over again and loved the track ‘Black Juju’ which I now know was written by bassist Dennis Dunaway as he and the two Bouchard brothers from Blue Oyster Cult (who I last saw in 1975 on the ‘On your feet or on your knees’ tour) played this just two foot away from me on the Saturday night. Dennis is mesmerising, living up to his rock god status, they played Eighteen, Under My Wheels, Schools Out and Godzilla and Reaper (both BOC originals). I was so close to catching the Dunnaway plectrum but it went sideways and I missed out.

Dr Feelgood 2013

I first saw Dr Feelgood supporting Hawkwind at my first Reading Pop Festival in 1975 and when I moved down to Southend on Sea in 1979 I was lucky to catch them again several times but this time without Wilko Johnson. The current Feelgood line-up still features Rob Kane, our band’s original singer, and it was great to catch him again searing through all of the bands hits. They really were on fire.

ABCD 2013

I then had to hot foot it to the other arena next door to see ABCD the ACDC tribute. Now it may well have been the alcohol and the atmosphere but I thought they were amazing, running through almost every single of the Bon Scott era (who incidentally I saw at Reading in 1976)

Coghlans Quo2013

John Coghlans Quo never fail to deliver and this time there was a lot of excitement about the up and coming reunion with the original line-up. I don’t think messrs Rossi and Parfitt would have played much better than this on the night and we sang along to so many of Rocks finest hits. As you can see, they made a lot of ageing men very happy.

I saw Stray many many times back in the early seventies at the Mecca and City Hall and having seen this Del Bromham version four times in the last two years knew what to expect. To a massive crowd they played old (Suicide, All in your mind, jericho) and newer (Harry Farr & Buying Time) songs and Del showed just how good a guitarist he is with wailing solos, tube in the mouth and guitar rammed in the lighting rig above the stage.

MickRalphs2013

Mick Ralphs and his blues band were on great form, Mick very much taking a ‘just one of the band’ stance. At least they played ‘Can’t get enough’ for a big singalong. Thats Mick Ralphs and Verden Allen of Mott the Hoople I have seen in the last 8 months and have a ticket for Ian Hunter in March. Scarily Mott were the second band I ever saw back in 1972, hence my initial quip about living my childhood in reverse.

blunstone 2013

Speaking of singalongs, Colin Blunstone was amazingly on tune this time around, hitting all the high notes on Sunday Afternoon. Paul Jones and the ‘Blues Band’ were as slick and entertaining as ever (far too many great musicians for a single band).

CurvedAir2013

Curved Air, Saxon and Focus were all good but didn’t really match my highlights and unfortunately I had to miss Vergil and the Accelerators, Eddie and the HotRods and the Animals with Steve Cropper such was the quality of bands playing here this year. Thanks to the wonders of mobile phones and long lasting video batteries almost all these bands plus a whole lot more can be seen on my youtube  channel playlist, enjoy.

All those years ago

We had an amazing night last night at the St Neots Folk club  where I was re-united with Paul Mason who was one of two exceptional guitarists in our band, ‘Steel Glaze’, back in 1973 – 1974. Paul has now partnered up with Fiona Lander to form Landermason playing the most beautiful songs and tunes.

I walked up to him and said ‘Hi Paul , we are looking forward to a good show tonight ‘ and I could tell there was no recognition. So later on I put my arm round him and said ‘you don’t remember me, do you?” which set us off reminiscing about everything we did, and everyone we both knew including our experiments with flash powder on the Sunderland Seafront, for which we now apologise.

What followed was an fantastic gig, “exquisite” was how my mate Mick the van put it. Paul and Fiona are superb musicians, creating a soundscape that draws pictures in the mind of heather clad fells, fast flowing streams and all the natural beauty the North East of England has to offer. Fiona is a natural singer and great raconteur about the origins of each song. What really surprised me was that Paul can sing. We went for almost a year, back in 1973, saying we were a band without a singer, and the tapes I have of the band all support this.

On leaving, I swapped a disc of all our band’s recorded rehearsals, (caught on a reel to reel tape recorder in Paul’s front room 39 years ago, and rediscovered in my dad’s loft recently), for their latest album which is already playing non stop in the car every where I go.

Check out their videos on Youtube,  here is the title track to their current album the Tree of Souls available here.

Note the Robin Hood Tree mentioned is the one at Hadrian’s wall featured in the Kevin Costner ‘Prince of Thieves’ film not the old oak in Sherwood Forest which everyone knows is mere fiction.

Clockwise trimming

Cynefin Framework

I can’t now remember if it was a tweet, a blog post or a newspaper article that got me thinking about this but apologies if I am not recognising someone’s initial jumpstart.

One of the first problem solving tactics in TRIZ (the Theory of Inventive Problem Solving) is that of Trimming. Trimming is an intervention that is well suited to the ordered domains of the cynefin framework ie where cause and effect can be causally linked.

If you trim a complex adaptive system (which by definition “the whole is more than the sum of its parts”) and remove a part, how can you be certain of the implications on the outcome of the ‘whole’.

It is a very natural evolutionary trend for an organisation to concentrate on one product/service and exclude other ideas for change as a threat to the status quo. Then in order to compete, the organisation will trim and trim and trim any spare capacity to adapt.

I therefore wonder whether there is a natural tendency/trend from Chaos – Complex – Complicated – Simple, which of course is a full clockwise circle of the cynefin framework.

As the incremental trimming changes reduce the process steps, component parts, time to market, cost,  etc you can see why what is left drifts slowly towards the simple-chaotic boundary as there is little capacity left to adapt and little appetite for innovative change.

Having recently returned from a nostalgic rock and blues festival, it was fascinating to see how many bands that have managed to survive up to 40 years on the road, yet are still reliant on and playing major tracks from their first and second albums. Why is it that these early tracks endure but despite universal improvements in musicianship, technology and production. It is quite rare that any of the songs written after those first few albums have any staying power.

I suspect it is the clockwise innovation path through the cynefin domains mentioned above.

When a band first starts up all the members are just getting to know each other, eager to impress and the boundary constraints are few. Different styles of musical influences are blended [A recent documentary on Sky Arts 1 commended Bill Ward of Black Sabbath for his jazz influenced drumming]. Songs are co-written.

Then after many gigs and a couple of albums, egos become inflated, a style is developed, the band is categorised by the music press and there are worries about losing their audience. These constraints inhibit an acceptance of change and diversity.

Fights break out over royalties. Individuals strive to have sole rights to their songs. New members are recruited as jobbing musicians to fill gaps left by feuding members. Increasing drug use, alcohol abuse and tag-along partners inhibits the creative process.

Finally the band are in a simple state doing occasional greatest hits shows for their original and declining, now middle aged, fans with just the drummer as an original member.

This clockwise evolutionary pathway may be more common than we think.