Much of the discussion about music at work focuses on who likes to listen to music when they work vs who doesn’t. But what if music could play a much richer role at work beyond just acting as a means to block out your colleagues? And what if music could provide a more enjoyable way to improve productivity beyond spreadsheets and processes. Here are a few thoughts to put and song in your step and more music in your work life.
Global summits are not the most exciting gigs in the world often run in windowless conference rooms near large airports. You also have the challenge of not only covering a large amount of content but also introducing a variety of different speakers and creating some excitement to fend off the jet lag.
So rather than get people to share an ‘amusing’ fact to introduce themselves at a global conference people were asked to choose their intro music. This allowed people to express their personality and have a bit of fun. I still remember Piotr Gleinert our Global media client – a 6 foot+ Pole with a buzz cut who is built like a nuclear shelter – walking onstage to the Imperial March, Darth Vader’s theme from Star Wars…. He then burst into a broad smile and reassured people that he wasn’t really that scary. (But it did help getting markets to reply to his emails)
If you have ever run a meeting or workshop that involves more than 10 people you will have experienced the issue of how to signal the start of a session. Not only do you have to get everyone in the room, but you have to get them sitting down… and stop talking. If you rely on shouting you will end up losing your voice over the course of the day and ringing a bell makes it feel too much like school.
A simpler solution is to play music and to turn it off when you want to signal to begin. Music not only helps welcome people to your session but turning it off gives people a clear signal that things are about to begin. You can also match the type of music to the session you are running. (It's amazing how carols can get you thinking about Christmas even in August)
Different types of work use different parts of your brain. And overworking parts of your mind can tire it out. That’s why it’s important to give your brain a break and exercise different parts of it – it’s why TED use short videos to break up their presentations and help reset people's brains.
You can use music in a similar way to not just to help you focus on your work but to lift your mood. So if you have had a morning immersed in spreadsheets and data and you want to shift your focus put on some music to give your brain a break. I find there is nothing like soul music to transport me to another place. Take me to the river…
Even if you’re not listening to music, music can provide a rich seam of insights, inspiration, and stories to help you create ideas. And, as music is universal, it ensures that people will more likely connect with and retain your stories.
I remember this remarkable statistic from Adam Foley - Robbie William’s song ‘Angels’ is the most played song at weddings in the UK…. And also funerals. In a world where everyone is talking about hyper-targeting and personalisation, it is interesting that one song can have such broad appeal. It certainly makes you think.
Music is both very universal yet very personal. As a result, it can help people connect and it creates shared memories. It is no coincidence that writing this piece has reminded me of specific people and places.
As a young planner I remember being slightly intimidated when I started working with Nigel Jones - a planning super-brain and junior chess grand master. But I soon found out about his passion for music, I'm forever grateful for him introducing me to this track - A steel band cover of Gary Numan's Cars - I challenge you to listen to it without smiling!
So don't just think of music as a way to block out the world of work rather than a way to enhance it. It needn’t be like this. Music is a powerful way to connect with people, a rich source of creativity and inspiration and it adds to the enjoyment of everyday life. Don’t just leave it trapped in your headphones and as hold music.
Paul is Global Head of Strategy at Vizeum. He is a Global Strategist with experience that spans a variety of sectors (CPG, Tech, Pharma and Finance) and disciplines (Media, Advertising, CRM and Sales Promotion). He is responsible for European Strategy across all Starcom Global Network Clients including Samsung, P&G, Coke, Airbnb, Novartis, Etihad, Mars. Paul holds a Bachelor in Biological Sciences, Zoology from the University of Oxford.