Photo Credit: Christina Jansen
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. He is 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. He has spent 18 years in academia and 18 + years running his businesses. He has been a musician since the age of 4.
I came into contact with Peter through his tireless anti-Brexit campaign activity. There is currently a Go Fund Me fundraiser to support his this campaign. I wanted to find out more about this, his campaigning activities, the man behind the publicity and his views on Europe beyond Brexit and am therefore delighted he agreed to take part in one of my interviews.
Peter’s anti-Brexit work is evolving all the time – this interview was conducted on 31/07/17 but check his social media for latest updates!
- Please tell me where you are from, where you currently live and work, and what you do.
Peter Cook, business consultant, author of 7.5 books on business, keynote speaker and musician. I blend my three passions of science, business and music in my work at The Academy of Rock and Human Dynamics which I have run for 23 years. In my early career I brought new pharmaceutical products to market safely including Human Insulin and the world’s first HIV / AIDS treatment. I live in Kent, UK and travel the world speaking about business, sometimes intertwining the ideas with parallel insights from the world of music. I’m proud to have won a prize from Sir Richard Branson for my work on leadership and gained an interview from him in one of my books on business.
- Which European languages can you speak?
French (un peu). I studied Latin and Ancient Greek at school which merely means that I can read Greek road signs !!
- Would you describe yourself as European? Is this important to you? Is your national identity more important?
Yes, proudly so. I’d go so far to say that I’m a citizen of the world. We are all caretakers on this planet and to describe ourselves as English etc. seems to place too much importance on the human condition, which after all has been a mostly destructive force for our planet’s well-being.
- When you think of the European Union, what is the first thing you think of?
70 years of peace. A place of welcoming people who are internationalists in their outlook yet individual in their identities.
- Do you feel that living and working in the EU has made a difference to your professional career? How?
Some 30% of my business activity involves speaking and organising conferences in Europe and the rest of the world. We quite simply live in a global village these days and to think we can somehow turn back the tide is an illusion. The 4th industrial age with artificial intelligence and machine learning will make us all global workers and we need to become fluent in working across cultures and learning rapidly. We are here to make a better world for all that inhabit our planet for the short time we are on the ground.
- Do you feel as though the European Union is beneficial the to area you work in? Can you support your answer with examples?
Absolutely yes, although I’m deeply aware of the benefits that the EU provides, one problem it has for others is that these benefits largely go un-noticed. I was talking with a senior Cabinet Office official who said that people would have a very rude awakening when they realise the many ways in which Europe supports their daily lives if we leave the EU. Some examples of the ways I notice (and there are many more) include some large infrastructure projects e.g. The Gateshead Millennium Bridge, rebuilding London’s Underground and science and technology innovation projects e.g. Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre at the University of Manchester. I work in the innovation space within companies and innovation is the main source of advantage in a rapidly changing world. We ignore the march of innovation at our peril and I sometimes feel that our Brexit obsession seeks to take us back to the 1950’s, or possibly even earlier in its faux desire to hang on to nostalgia.
- Does Europe inspire you professionally or personally? If so, how?
Yes, both. The EU was inspired by a terrible series of wars and has succeeded in terms of its contribution to peace across the continent. That is no small achievement. We celebrate a diverse culture in Europe whilst being connected in ways that help us trade, travel and benefit from free movement.
- What do you think of the result of the Brexit referendum in the UK?
Our current Brexit position was the result of a series of gross lies, mainly from the leave campaign which preyed upon latent xenophobia and made false promises such as the gross lie that we would gain £350 million a week for the NHS and we would “get our country back”. We never lost it and the very day after the referendum we were told that the £350 million was a lie.
A referendum based on lies is not part of any modern democracy. In any case the vote to leave represented only some 27% of the population and Nigel Farage himself said that an equivocal result would require a rethink. Yet, we have ploughed on with Brexit with no plan, no idea as to what we will gain from this and already visible signs that Brexit will produce catastrophic losses for the United Kingdom, economically, socially, politically and environmentally.
9. Do you think the EU helps maintain peace?
For 37 pence a day or less than half a Mars Bar, the EU has contributed to peace in Europe. Where could you buy that from? That is all.
- Do you feel as though you have a lot in common with people from European countries other than your own? Can you give examples?
Yes, absolutely. I have a whole group of friends that share a love for the music artist Prince across Europe. We probably speak more than I do to people in my own town, some of whom are characterised by racism and intolerance. Aside from that I am an avid networker through my writing and business activities and am blessed to have friends and connections in many European countries, having worked in France, Germany, Estonia, Sweden, Ireland, Poland, Denmark, Italy, Spain, Austria, Romania, Monaco, Greece, Belgium, The Netherlands and Latvia over the years.
- Are you involved in any campaigning activity related to the UK referendum result? If so, please tell me more about it. What would success look like for your campaign?
Yes, I work at No 10 Downing Street for the No 10 Vigil for our regular music and arts protest about self-harming Brexit. I write for The New European newspaper and I have an ongoing project to “Break Brexit Before Brexit Breaks Britain”. We are also speaking and performing with the Brexit Rock Band “Rage Against The Brexit Machine” at the Labour, Conservative and Lib Dem party conferences coming up in September. Success will be achieved when we have made Brexit history for a better Britain in a United Reformed Europe. If readers can support the project I’ll be very grateful as I’m self employed and have put my business and therefore income on hold to lay Brexit to rest.
- How would you feel about ‘ever closer union’ or a ‘United States of Europe’?
I think there are some areas in which greater levels of co-operation will be of extreme value, e.g. on security and even a European army. The British army is very poorly funded and our expertise would be valued in a better resourced EU army. I do however understand that such arguments are set against some other ideas about national pride and branding illusions from the members of our “Dad’s Army” society. Yet I don’t really seek a more homogenous Europe. Our strength lies within our diversity and tolerance of our different customs.
- Do you have a favourite place in Europe? If so, where is it and why do you love it?
Oh, surely not one !! I love Antwerp and Amsterdam mainly for the relaxed culture and friendliness but also have a fondness for Berlin, Paris and Venice.
- Which European national stereotypes are true, in your experience?
Belgians do make supreme beer and chocolate. The Dutch and Belgians know how to enjoy life. The Germans are a model of efficiency. The Poles are warm hearted. The French make the ordinary beautiful, but they sometimes smoke too much 🙂 Italians do everything better …
- Where is the best place in Europe to drink coffee? What would you order?
Italy. I’d order Espresso of course!
- What do you think is the biggest challenge facing Europe today?
The populist uprisings that were at the heart of Brexit are symptomatic of growing unease about some extremely important questions that are being widely ignored by politicians on all sides, such as:
How will we face technological change which will impact the knowledge and skills we need as human beings?
How might we afford a world at leisure?
How will we tackle climate change?
How will we address migration in an ethical way?
How will we deal with poverty around the globe?
and so on ..
These are themes I write about in my new book, currently titled The Man Machine. It does not seek to dismiss the part of women in all this by the way … it is also the title of a Kraftwerk album !! Readers may find out more about my other books at Amazon.
- Name a place in Europe you have not visited, but would like to. Why?
Helsinki. A good musician friend emigrated there and says it’s the best decision he ever made to leave the UK.
- What do you think is the most significant moment in European history? Why?
Hmm, another tough one. If I have to choose, I will mention something within my history. The falling of the Berlin Wall marked a sea change in our hopes and dreams for a more united world. It produced many ripple effects in Eastern Europe. Sadly the tectonic plates of “progress” seem to be now redirected at erecting walls not bridges. We need to reverse that.
- Do you think the UK will leave the EU in 2019?
No. Our Brexitosis will end in one of several ways: The sheer complexity will mean that the project just “slides into the sea”, or there will be a cataclysmic event such as the meltdown of the Conservative party, or a series of less cataclysmic events will combine. Public opinion is already changing and we have not even felt the worst effects yet of Brexit. Eventually a leader will emerge with the courage to stop the process. However, the longer we wait the more the irreversible damage will be so we must move quickly. I am impatient with the centre ground of British politics and am impatient to do something about it.
- Are you hopeful for the future of Europe?
Yes, very. The project has lasted 70 years in the wake of many challenges and it is therefore robust and resilient. The naysayers have pointed out that many of the individual economies have faltered, but recent analysis suggests that they are thriving once again and it is the UK who now starts to look like the “sick man of Europe” once again. I hope we don’t make the catastrophic mistake of proving ourselves right, particularly as our NHS will likely be owned by Donald Trump if we Brexit, so we won’t be able to afford to heal ourselves!
Don’t forget the Go Fund Me campaign!