Six things teams can learn from music

20 Jun
June 20, 2016

Susy Roberts, 20th June 2016

Having just incorporated another teambuilding session into one of our workshops by the wonderful Creative Team Events, it never ceases to amaze me just how effective music is at getting business professionals to do things they resist back in the office – from really listening to each other to allowing their creativity and intuition to take over.

So much so that I thought I’d share my top six things business can learn from music.

1. Listening to one another

When you watch business professionals communicating with one another in a meeting or boardroom, very few have what it takes to really listen to what someone else is trying to say, primarily because they’re in the habit of interrupting, talking over each other or filtering out what’s being said while they wait to make their own point. Give the same team a drum and a stick each and tell them to produce a tune of some kind and it’s amazing to watch the ease with which they start genuinely listening to and really concentrating on what each individual is ‘saying’ with their drum, to arrive at a beautifully coordinated response.

If one individual then decides to take the ‘conversation’ in a different direction, by adding in a double note or two, it’s only a matter of seconds before someone else decides to change their beat also, but instead of playing over them, as happens all to often in business, the ability to listen to and remain respectful of each other remains. So, even though the sounds and rhythms being produced start to move in a totally different direction, everyone somehow manages to sustain their ability to listen and respond to one another in a way that remains harmonious.

2. Thinking about the greater good

For a band of musicians or singers to remain in tune, the participants not only have to constantly listen and respond to one another, they also have to constantly think about what they can contribute at any one time. At times they may decide the best thing is for them to remain totally blended with everyone else so that everything remains in total harmony. At other times they might see an opportunity to shine and do something that stands out.

What’s amazing about this process is that what’s required of each individual continually changes, and it’s up to each individual to pinpoint exactly what’s required of them at any one moment to keep things in harmony. Remarkably, this ability to recognise and respond to others’ needs, reigning ourselves in whenever necessary, seems to come naturally – on an almost subconscious level – in a musical context, even when exactly the same team might struggle to stay balanced in ‘real life’.

3. Playing to each others’ strengths

One of the reasons that it’s far easier for a team to remain in harmony while carrying out a musical teambuilding exercise than it is back in the office, is that individuals are open to recognising and responding to each other’s strengths. As soon as someone starts to do something special that seems to be working, everyone else seems happy to allow them greater input and presence.

Even if it feels a bit different to what was practiced in rehearsal, there’s something about the live performance, just as in the case of that product launch or big presentation, where peaks of energy happen and everyone comes together and supports each other to create something special that amounts to much more than the sum of the individuals alone.

4.  Being creative and intuitive

There’s not much that we don’t over-think in the corporate world, so much so that most of us have forgotten how to tap into our creative side. Fortunately, the ability to make and appreciate music is innate to all of us – babies can recognise and respond to music before they’re born. So when we allow ourselves to tap into our creative side to make music with our colleagues or management peers or fellow leaders, we open ourselves up to doing something creative at an almost subconscious level. By doing so, we also allow ourselves to intuitively experience other things, like listening and responding to each other, that we might struggle to do with our corporate hats on.

Even though it might seem like music doesn’t have much place in the corporate world, or that its effects on any teambuilding day might be very short-lived, the reality is that once we allow ourselves to tap into our creative side with the people who surround us at work, it becomes much easier to do that again in a more professional context back at the office.

5. Feeling proud of one another

Far too often in the corporate world, special moments and achievements are barely acknowledged, let alone celebrated. In the world of music, as anyone who’s ever belted out a song in the car or shower knows, there’s a burst of pride you get from really going for it. Likewise, when a group of individuals come together to really go for it as a team, away from the confines of working life, they experience a surge of pride and joy that creates an incredible collective sense of achievement that they created those sounds together.

Once that team has experienced that pride together once, the desire to feel that same sense of pride again remains, motivating them to continue collectively celebrating their achievements, in a way that integrates nicely with wider team building activities.

6. Messages that stick in your head

Just as reading aloud, as opposed to reading inside our heads, can help increase our ability to remember and learn new information, singing and playing music can help us to remember a point being conveyed far more powerfully than any internal memo or email. That’s because when we read something we’re dependent on our visual memory alone. But when we create or listen to music, we form powerful auditory links, and other experiential connections, that embed themselves much more deeply in our memory pathways (as anyone who’s ever had a tune stuck in their head for days can testify!)

So, if you want your team to really adopt or get behind a point being made, why not make it via the medium or music at your next strategy event. It will make your message far more powerful and memorable than anything a PowerPoint presentation alone can achieve.

Ready to get musical?

If you’d like to discuss ways of using musical activities, as part of your wider team building or strategy events, please call us on +44(0)1270 750232 or email

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