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Playing the piano, singing opera and learning to play the guitar, I have long had a deep love for music.  Yet I had never thought of it as a vehicle for supporting sustainable change…

During our last ARC workshop, I learned that music has a new quality for me: its creation can teach us how to tackle our next project, how to work together as a strong team, and how each and every one’s contribution, be it ever so small, will change the big picture.

Sounds cheesy? Not at all.

We were using Design Thinking as a method for our workshop and wanted to experiment with combining it with artistic approaches.

We opted for music for this one and asked Wiebke, an experienced drumming teacher to take our participants through a session of improvisational drumming. We scheduled this to happen right before the intense idea generation phase of the Design Thinking Method, as we were hoping to spark creativity by getting people out of their heads, so to speak. Wiebke took the group from rhythm basics all the way to a free group improvisation under the theme of “crazy ideas”.

We then debriefed the drumming session with a reflection on what the development of the impro piece could teach us about our work for a more sustainable future.

The results were astounding – from the process of idea generation over sharing responsibilities within a team, tackling group dynamics to project implementation, participants saw connections to their work in their various fields.
Not only did we all have a lot of fun, became more comfortable with each other, and deepened our connection as a group; participants also said they felt energized, inspired, hopeful and ready to act. What was most striking, were the insights participants took from this for their work. One participant realized that just as in the drumming, when designing a project with a group it is important to play with each other’s ideas and build on them. Someone stated that as all drummers are responsible for the whole musical piece, all team members hold equal responsibility for the project outcomes. In creating the drumming piece, each individual rhythm, every ever so small contribution, changes the piece as a whole – the same is true for our work together… and the list went on and on.

Actually, many of these reminded me of the pattern language for group processes we had used in an earlier workshop

During a different phase of the workshop, a classically trained violinist then was so kind as to play a Fuge by Bach on Cello. Afterwards, he took us through a theoretical analysis of the piece while at the same time relating it to project and idea development. For example, he related the first theme of the Fuge to the main idea of a project; the second theme of the Fuge, which is always a variation of the first, became a different perspective on that main idea. He used the dissonance of the note C sharp, which Bach uses to increase tension and then resolve, as a metaphore for a provocative, insightful question. Throughout the rest of the workshop, participants kept referring to their new ideas as a ‘second theme’  and the C sharp became a supportive teaser, as any challenging questions to support others were soon announced as “C Sharp”.

The integration of music into this process was eyeopening and I cannot wait to experiment more with this.

If you would like to read more about some highlights of the ARC workshops, here I reflected on the perks of using a pattern language in the group process, and here I shared my thoughts on the Design Thinking Method.

(foto used under creative commons license, courtesy of Miika Silfverberg