Business lessons from The Wonder Stuff

The Wonder Stuff
The Wonder Stuff (Photo credit: ibison4)

Yesterday a random chat between HR folk struck up about The Wonder Stuff and how we were all big fans. When I was in my teenage years I was a huge fan and I went to see Miles Hunt play a few years ago and he is still superb. When you are in your teens the lyrics to songs mean a lot to you – with the hormones raging, the world broadening and a strong need to identify and rebel at the same time you find meaning where you can.


Now I’m so very old I look back on those songs and see meaning for organisations, not just individuals. I’m sure the songs were always written to be more personal – but the good thing is growing up now means I find my meaning in the people around me – never a bad thing.

Song: Grin

Lyric:- You’ve got no hope for the future, so stop looking for somebody else to blame

Sometimes things just die. Professions, roles, organisations. This is the way of the world. Darwin and others clocked this hundreds of years ago. It is the way of the world to renew. So when you reach the point that clinging painfully onto the past (whilst firing broadsides at others) seems like your best course of action .Give it up, move on, grab onto the future and hold tight. The past won’t take you anywhere, neither will knocking those who you might need in the future.

Song: Unbearable

Lyric: I didn’t like you very much when I met you (and now I like you even less)

Throughout my career I’ve seen people who have been hired due to technical competence, despite the fact the interviewer didn’t ‘click’ with them, didn’t quite ‘get’ them, didn’t like ‘something they can’t quite put their finger on’. There are two things going on here – the first of which is the importance of cultural fit. It really matters who you elect to let join your organisation – they don’t just do stuff, they interact with other people who do stuff. The second thing is that you should always challenge your gut reaction – but also listen to it. Challenge it so that you are not avoiding diversity of background or opinion – listen to it because it is saying something, you need to know what that is.

Song: Caught in my shadow

Lyric:  These streets used to look big, this town used to look like a city, these people used to talk to me 

When you get promoted everything changes. The dynamics of relationships in the workplace are to a degree defined by hierarchy. Suddenly you have access to information, meetings and networks that you didn’t have previously – but you also lose something on the way up. You aren’t part of the same team in the same way. Hold onto those relationships, don’t let the upwards movement go to your head, but understand that whilst you may not want things to change they already have. Your job is to convince people that whilst your title may have changed you haven’t

Song: Circlesquare

Lyric: the circle doesn’t fit its little square, it bulges with opportunity

There are benefits to structure, but one of the drawbacks is that the more you draw a box around a person and put a label on it, the more your perception of them depends on not who they are but where they sit on an org chart. Your best people will be pushing at the sides of boxes all of the time, wanting to bust out of the ugly container you’ve put them in and to make a difference elsewhere. Spot it and help it. Otherwise they’ll go and find somewhere to work that is less confined.

Song: Give, give, give, me more, more, more

Lyric: I hope I make more money than this in the next world

I’m a big fan of growth. The job of any business is to grow, but the worrying thing about growth is that it nearly always causes pain. I read a lot of books on economics, as it helps me to stay fun at parties. The natural consequence of economic growth is more disparity of wealth, the natural consequence of increased disparity of wealth is more people feeling worse about their relative position. Our obsession with wanting more and never being satisfied has left us in a constant state of not being quite there. Chances are for most of us we will die before we do get there. So I hope you either make more money that you currently do it the next world – or that you learn to value what you have now.   Maybe some of us should be hoping for less growth if that means less disparity…

Song: Full of life (Happy now)

Lyric: if you spoke up now would you tell without the lying, or are the answers laced lies to hide your pain. Are you happy now?

I’ve written before about people rationalising their own role in events, giving a generous assessment of their own starring role and motives. It is rare that we are able to just answer the question ‘why did you do that?’ with ‘because I selfish/stupid/crass/unthinking’.

We tend to opt for thinking of the most favourable interpretation of why we might have done something. If you want to get better as a person (and arguably in business) you need to be able to speak about yourself without entertaining that lie. You need to be truthful about the fact that, occasionally, you are the villain of the piece.

Ask people you trust ‘was I a muppet?’ if they so ‘no’ then ask again. It they then say ‘well, a little…’ then you know you were a raging muppet.

Song: It’s yer money I’m after, baby

Lyric: I’m sticking with you and that’s just because… it’s your money I’m after baby

Try and minimise the number of people saying this in your company. Not through an employee engagement initiative or anything complex like that, but through being a better company made up of better people with a better sense of purpose. People need money, but if it is the only reason they have to be with you – you’ve failed.

Song: On the ropes

Lyric: I can’t kick aside, a kick inside

It’s always personal if your decision involves people – unless you are Michael Corleone. And even then the memories of your business decisions haunt you to your grave. People, please don’t think that because you had a good reason to kill Fredo it wasn’t going to impact you. If this makes no sense to you then go listen to The Wonder Stuff, whilst watching The Godfather trilogy

Song: Sleep alone 

Lyric: I still sit at home, twitching my fingers, playing the songs of my favourite singers. Easy then, I’m easy now

Someone said to me last week that I had never grown up. They meant it in a positive way. I try and stay curious and open. I took it in the manner intended and grinned. My wife agreed with the diagnosis.

I used to be able to play a whole range of the songs mentioned here on the guitar. I now have a daughter approaching 4 and the time for indulging myself in anything apart from family seems a long time ago. So now my fingers are twitching over a keyboard, writing about the songs of my favourite singers. No matter how much changes, some things stay similar and familiar.

One thought on “Business lessons from The Wonder Stuff

  1. From ‘Inertia’. Two choices, hang back or get ahead. Clear link here to organisational innovation. If organisations fail to adapt and change, or show flexibility, then they will face a potential decline.

    And I am going to see them next month – woo hoo!


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