And then it struck me: MUSIC!!!

How could I not think of this one before? How come two overwhelming parts of my brain – learning process facilitation and music – did not connect earlier properly?

While relaxing from the last of three events in a row in Nairobi this week, I ended up chatting with our graphic facilitation duo (check their wonderful work at that event here), one of these artists confessed that of all the elements that make up a perfect event (missing the references for this here – do you know?), he enjoyed our event very much, but really missed one aspect: music!

Now, I’ve been an avid music collector for the past 25 to 30 years, amassing treasured beats, melodies and quirky noise experiments from around the world, across genres, for different moods, on different beats, for different purposes, in different languages, using different instruments. Or none… Over the equivalent of several terabytes of music scattered across various artifacts (CDs, cassettes, mini-discs, MP3s, LPs and EPs etc.)… Such a treasure chest at my hand and I never used it.

Music, the one and only energy and passion driver (Credits: Michael Spencer / FlickR - Friendly Fires @ Future Music Festival 2012 Perth, Arena Joondalup)
Music, the one and only energy and passion driver (Credits: Michael Spencer / FlickR)

Music drives energy and feelings – pretty much just like no other thing. It can dampen the atmosphere and sober everyone out, it can inspire and spark off movement, it can relax and soothe, it can open up hearts. It’s such a powerful current of energy that can be tapped into at all times – among other energy drivers

So it’s also a naturally great knowledge management enabler:

  • It can bring people together – regardless of language and background – and help create trust as it also connects people from their inner self, not just their professional profile;
  • It can create an atmosphere that helps people reflect deeply;
  • It can liberate the energy to drive real action, with a purpose, transcending individuals and appealing to a collective aspiration;
  • It uses our creative facets, rather than relying solely on the intellect…

And these are just some of the many possible uses of music…

On the other hand, using the power of music raises issues of ‘facipulation‘, but on the other hand it’s such a pity not to use this potential. When the graphic facilitator shared his impression, all of a sudden I felt deep down how un-melodious and sadly un-musical that event, and many other events I’ve designed in the past, had been.

Now, some questions to sharpen our sensitivity to music in KM and music in events:

  • What examples do you have of a good use of music to drive action, reflection or otherwise?
  • Where did music actually feel over-intrusive or over-powerful?
  • Where does ‘creating an atmosphere stop’ and when does ‘facipulation’ start?
  • Should music be restricted to multi-participant events or would you recommend using it for normal and small meetings, discussions, work etc.?
  • Should it be limited to the breaks or be the a theme tune in the actual sessions?
  • Do you rely on someone organising the music selection, would you run it as part of facilitation?
  • To what extent do cultural differences play a role in selecting music and to what extent should you use the music you know best, to be authentically true to yourself?
  • What have been interesting tunes or genres that might have proven particularly helpful with knowledge management – if any?

One sure thing is I’ll be using music in my next event(s) and see how it flies… I hope it will work out, because when the music’s over…

Related blog posts:

Published by Ewen Le Borgne

Collaboration and change process optimist motivated by ‘Fun, focus and feedback’. Nearly 20 years of experience in group facilitation and collaboration, learning and Knowledge Management, communication, innovation and change in development cooperation. Be the change you want to see, help others be their own version of the same.

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  1. Wow, lots of compelling evidence this is the right way forward. Thank you Simone, Nancy and Natalie for sharing your experiences!
    – Using music at breaks is an obvious win;
    – Using music as a transboundary experience to create bonding, again an obvious win;
    – You ring, you sing, yeah! I’ll have to use this. What do you do if people firmly refuse singing?
    – And wonderful energisers, sure!
    – Speed dancing, hmmm – did everyone get into this? Where/when do you use this, when not?

    Some questions remain still though: Did you ever feel you were facipulating with music (when using it in sessions)? If so, did you try to let it be or to re-establish a balance? How did it feel looking back at the entire experience?

    Thanks so much for sharing your comments and my apologies for this very late reply…

  2. I use music in every workshop I facilitate. I always ask participants to tell me their top 5 favorite artists from their country/culture. So, when in Ethiopia, its Ethiopian music and so on. I always let participants chose and then I play the music as much as possible, as people enter in the morning, during breaks and sometimes as background music during sessions. It helps people feel happy, connected and energized in the space and I think helps with commitment to the work.

    I also use a workshop rule that involves music -“you ring, you sing!” so I have a no cell phone noise policy..and if someone forgets to turn off their cell phone and it rings in the middle of a session, that person gets to choose one other participant and at the lunch break or end of the day,and they have to sing a song or do a dance. This is supposed to be a deterrent to cell phones, but sometimes, I think they let the phone ring on purpose, as it gives an excuse to get up an dance! I’ve seen some awesome traditional dances and songs, that end up involving the entire room, as they break out in clapping and laughing.

    yay for more music in our lives!

  3. Hi Ewen, I just lost my reply….
    I used music in our Annual Program Review this year. We organized speed dancing classes, every day with music from another country or region. I identified colleagues who selected the music and served as dancing teachers.
    It was fun also a lot of talking, convincing, organizing.
    It was not too complicated to make participants stand up and follow the instructor’s indications. Also, it was really very short, not even the full length of the song.
    The DG wasn’t happy the first day, left on day 2 and then taped the dancing on day 3…
    The objective was to celebrate our diversity through music. It was great!

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