Punk Rock, Disruptive Thinking And Business

Between Madonna and Marx in the dictionary, there is Management.

Between Leadership and Lennon, there is Learning.

Between Human Beings and Human Resources, there is Human Relations.

In this series of articles, I plan to serialise and augment my 2016 book “Punk Rock People Management”, a book which looks at disruptive thinking on human relations, humanistic business management, and humanity, for the ADHD society, where people want fast answers to complex problems.  In this “prologue” I will set out a “future manifesto” for better ways of leading and managing people for the 4th industrial age.  Punk Rock Business seminars are available on a worldwide basis.  A limited edition of the original Punk Rock Biz book is available direct from author’s garage … Let’s begin in the style of The Ramones with a 1, 2, 3, 4 …

HR: Human Remains or Human Relations?

The Human Resources’ profession has its own lexicon and a bloated industry that supports it.  Yet good human relations and great HR separate great companies and great service from the herd. Punk Rock People Management offers a new wave approach to an industry badly in need of a makeover – in the same way that The Sex Pistols’ Johnny Rotten’s outrageous clothing was a metaphorical and literal shop window for what has become part of the mainline fashion industry. We don’t need more smart-dressed men and women from the so-called HR profession, spouting meaningless mantras such as:

We must leverage our corporate assets in pursuit of superior net present values for our shareholders, stakeholders and wider communities (not forgetting our customers and staff).

Madonna never managed such a long sentence on HR:

Like a Virgin


Treat people as if it’s your very first time in collaborating with them, whether they are customers, partners, co-workers or subordinates.

It’s not that the MBA speak is undesirable or impure.  After all, I have an MBA.  I also respect academic thinking on HR, having taught SHRM for many years at a Business School and been a Council board member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).  It’s just that the so-called professional lexicon of HR does not communicate.  After all, great business leadership and people management are all about clear and concise communications!

Human Relations: Pure, authentic and Simple

If we want authentic communications at work, we must find pure, authentic and simple ways of talking and writing about what we want to communicate.  We need a refreshingly different approach to HR, which has all too often become a self-serving industry of its own.  I’m calling for a revolution in HR and people management.  Are you part of the revolution, or just revolted?

In the spirit of punk rock, each of our “chapters” in the series will be very short, so that they can be read in less time than it would take to pogo to an Iggy Pop or Blink 182 song.  Obviously, that’s your own choice J  In the minimalist world of Punk Rock Biz 360, simple but not simplistic.  Potent, but not offensive.  Short, but not always sweet.  Punk Rock Biz is organised under three headings, representing the time-honored “life, sex, and death” lifecycle of people management:  Hiring, Inspiring, and Firing.  In essence, Punk Rock HR is about having great people management strategies and then getting the basics right:

Hiring: Getting the right people and getting induction right, so that people want to come to work and give of their best.

Inspiring: Doing all the elements of what I call “The HR Six Pack” well to keep your people engaged and help them improve their performance over time.  We’ll cover the “Six Pack” in one of the forthcoming articles.

Firing: Being honest and ethical when the psychological contract between the employee and the enterprise runs out so that those who leave you still love you.

In 25 + years of worldwide business consulting I would “name and fame” companies like Virgin, Unilever, 3M and Merck as exemplars of organisations who get the people management piece right on a consistent basis.  In a world where machines will do much of our basic analytical work and we will require more intelligence and creativity from people, the question of leading and motivating staff has never been more important.

I will leave some subjects out in the series, such as:

  • Grievance, aka “Anarchy in the UK” by The Pistols
  • Personal development, aka “Career Opportunities” by The Clash
  • Pensions, aka “Dead End” by The Dead Kennedys

I am presently engaged in writing the sequel, entitled “The Great HR Swindle”.  You might like to join me in writing the text for these in a global crowdsourced collaboration for reforming the HR paradigm for good …


Peter Cook
Peter Cook
PETER 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 twelve books on business leadership, acclaimed by Tom Peters, Professors Charles Handy, Adrian Furnham, and Harvey Goldsmith CBE. His blends his three passions are science, business, and music into unique inspiring keynotes based on the art of storytelling. His early life involved leading innovation teams for 18 years to develop life-saving drugs including the first treatments for HIV/AIDS, Herpes and the development of Human Insulin. 18 years in academia teaching MBAs and 18 + years running his businesses. All his life since the age of four playing music. Peter won a prize for his work from Sir Richard Branson after his mother claimed he was a Virgin birth. He now writes for

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