Creative Business Team Management the John Mayall Way

by Rod Dunne on February 24, 2011

in Creative, Entrepreneurial

Creative business management leaders could learn a lot from musician John Mayall. In this post I’ll take a look at some of the key management techniques John used in forming an innovative and ever-changing band and their application to regular business.

Intro – Why should you care about the Blues Breakers?

John Mayall is band-leader and the driving force behind the group John Mayall and the Blues Breakers. Since the 1960s he has managed to get some of the best musicians in the world to join his group. This includes the likes of Eric Clapton and Peter Green.

What makes John’s band so relevant to creative business management techniques has nothing to do with sales leads generation or ROI. John has always seen his group as a framework for fostering new talent and brainstorming new song ideas – something which is crucial to creative business.

There are three key elements to John’s thinking which can apply to creative business management and other industries, and these are:

1: Be flexible about changing team members to gain new ideas

John has always been flexible about group members leaving or joining. When Eric Clapton left it must’ve been a major blow as he was hugely popular. However, Peter Green joined soon after and they became even more successful, so every cloud has a silver lining.

This attitude has seen the Blues Breakers have numerous band members in the almost 50 years the band being going. This facilitated the output of numerous different albums.

Application: Refresh team members on a regular basis by bringing in new staff or changing team members to get new ideas. This will help avoid groupthink and provide more innovative left of field concepts.

2: Don’t let creative business management leaders get in the way

You’d think that given the band was called John Mayall and the Blues Breakers that Mr. Mayall would have a bit of an ego and want all the focus on him. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

John is a superb keyboard player and does get to play solos in a large number of their songs. However, he’s keenly aware that he has hired all these great people in order for them to shine. This applies whether they are writing songs, playing guitar solos or providing a solid baseline.

Application: In creative business management you should never try to clip the wings of creative employees. You hire smart people so that they can make the best use of their talents. Be careful about what business processes and project management techniques you use as creative/innovative ideation often requires more space for mistakes to be made.

3: Don’t look back, always look forward

John’s group has been going since the 1960s. In this time they have had numerous bands line-ups and numerous records released.

The temptation will be continue to look back on successful periods and try to reproduce those. However, John’s Blues Breakers have always moved forward trying to break new grounds in the creation of the blues.

Application: Creative business management leaders need to quickly forget any failures that occur in the past. New ideation concepts and product lines can be successful on one occasion, but fail at other times due to external causes (competition, economic downturn, etc.). Always realize that the same pattern of events can result in different outcomes. It’s like pan-handling – with creative teams you need to be constantly coming up with large ranges of creative ideas in order to get those handful of golden, commercially-successful products.

Author Rod Dunne...

Blog owner and sole writer Rod DunneI am the owner and sole writer on This is my personal blog detailing troubleshooting tips for small businesses. Posts are based upon 2 decades in consultancy & innovation management within startups/maturing companies.

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