Musicing: Innovative Team Building

Team Building with 'Musicing'

Anyone who has spent a fair number of years working in Corporate London has, at least once, been dragged to a team building workshop.

Usually having to do with the squeezing of spongy balls or watching boring presentations that lead to equally boring questionnaires, the only upside to these tedious exercises is that it allows the attendee to get away from their desk for a few hours.

Enter Luke Crookes.  An accomplished Bassoon player, Crookes decided to use his social skills and musical knowledge to create ‘Musicing’, a team building company which promises that at the end of a workshop, the attendees – no matter how novice – will be able to play a musical instrument with their colleagues in a full orchestra.

Skeptical?  So was I.  So I decided to give Musicing a try.

Pilot workshop

On a Sunday afternoon, along with about 60 others, I attended Musicing’s pilot workshop.

Luke Crookes, CEO of Musicing - Photograph by Charlotte Medlicott

The attendees were asked to choose from a compelling array of instruments including the clarinet, violin, viola, guitar, a variety of brass and percussion instruments, vocals and best of all, the cello.

I’ve always loved the sound of a cello, but had never touched one.

I found myself excited by the prospect of producing even one solid note from the hour glass shaped wooden instrument that one of Crookes’ staff members handed to me.

With its glossy façade and weighty presence, I cradled it as if it were a newborn baby.

What’s great about a cello is that the sounds produced by its strings when stroked with a bow are so deliciously rich that one need not play well to sound interesting.

Still, playing as a group is a different thing entirely, and the job of every team builder is to get a group of people to create something vital together.

Musicing: The String Section

The mission

Crookes was on it.  The mission never alluded him, but the cleverness that he brought to this particular team building venture, which will perhaps deem his methods as more viable than normal exercises, turned out to be two important aspects.

First, Crookes maintained throughout the entire exercise that each of us brings something unique to the table.  Not a new concept, yet surprisingly effective when someone gives you the freedom to explore that possibility.

The staff members in charge of the cello players asked us to play with our eyes closed for a few moments.  We had been told what to do, but would not be able to see the hand signals that alerted us to the next step.

But this faith in our group caused an interesting shift in perspective and a measure of trust in our fellow novices that had a pleasant result.

Musicing: The Tuba

It caused us to listen to the other players to determine the next step – surely the point of any team building exercise.

Crookes reinforced this idea, at the end of the session, when we all jammed together and basically tried to add something to the ongoing rhythm that reverberated around us.

The second aspect of Crookes method that caused this experience to be unique is that though most of us were playing a particular instrument for the first time in our lives, there was never a moment during the exercise when we weren’t taken seriously.

We were entrusted with beautiful, and likely expensive, instruments.  We were given clear instructions about how to hold the instrument and play it properly.  Each section of the orchestra was treated as a vital part of the whole.

But most importantly, there were more than 20 staff members, actual orchestral players, who instructed us and played alongside us during the entire exercise.

This more than anything caused me to take my part very seriously.  And the better I played, the more focused I felt.  A staff member, who instructed the violinists, somewhat firmly pushed us to do better as if she expected that we could.

A feeling of confidence

When it was over, I walked out of the venue feeling confident.  As cliche as that may sound, it is ultimately logical once we factor in an inevitable truth: I left my house that morning barely aware of how to properly hold an instrument.  But by the time I returned, I had played the cello with an entire orchestra.

And although it is a sure bet that my playing was rubbish, I can now imagine taking lessons and one day giving myself countless hours of pleasure by playing regularly in the comfort of my own home.

The bigger picture for Musicing is that it’s recipients will likely feel creative drive and purpose with their fellow work colleagues.

It is not so farfetched to envision a group of employees from the Reporting team of a major corporation getting a natural boost by having an orchestral jam with the Risk and Assessment team.  It sort of put things in perspective when you’ve created something you can be proud of.

It will be interesting to see how many companies will be willing to take the leap. Although the past two decades has seen an increased interest in tapping into the creative or right hemisphere side of the brain, left hemisphere functions such as problem solving and language are still very much lauded in a corporate environment.

Still, there is a rising need for creativity through teamwork in order to come up with innovative ways to solve problems and to keep up with technological advancements.

This is where a team building method like Musicing has the potential to make a difference in corporate environments.  In the consistent atmosphere of mergers and lay-offs, and the poor economy, there is little opportunity for feelings of accomplishment in corporations.

Musicing may be a welcome respite and a useful learning tool for companies wishing to increase morale and stimulate teamwork.

If you’re interested in what Musicing can do for your team or company, contact Luke Crookes at lukecrookes@me.com