How Music Can Empower Your Performance
Love has the power to lead us into extraordinary things. Many have crossed deserts, climbed mountains and given up their comfortable lives for the sake of the one they love. Music sets the tone for many of these love stories and provides the soundtrack to many broken hearts. But does it have the power to change the way we work?
“If music be the food of love, play on”, Orsino cries, in the opening to Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. An unhappy, lovesick Orsino orders his musicians to entertain him and stir up the intense feelings he has for Olivia. It seems that Orsino is acknowledging that music has the power to motivate our hearts.
Many of us know the power of music when we’re feeling sad or have suffered a personal loss because we identify with the tone and lyrics. Research can also confirm that listening to music can lift your mood. A 2013 study in the Journal of Positive Psychology found that people who listened to upbeat music could improve their moods and boost their happiness in just two weeks.
Music Means Change
Our work with world-class musicians is about more than boosting your mood. We’ve found music to be a great tool for organisations that are looking for something different. They’re intentional about finding something powerful but effective that will engage their staff in a deeper, more lasting way. Observing and understanding the complex relationships of an orchestra can teach us much about how high-functioning organisations perform at their best.
However, our work-lives can also feel increasingly invasive to our health and wellbeing. Smartphones provide access and availability to the demands of the office almost around the clock. At the same time, our work environments are recognised as spaces where people bring their whole selves. We realise that if someone is experiencing stress, grief or anxiety that will affect their performance in the office. Music has the power to engage us as individuals, within our corporate structures, and provide the inspiration for significant change.
Music That Empowers
According to the American Music Therapy Association, music therapy is “the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals.” Today, it’s used not just to help people improve their mood but to restore their energy and heal more naturally.
It has been applied to stroke victims to teach them how to talk once again. At the same time, it is recommended to those with speech disorders so that they can dictate words more clearly. It can also be helpful in –
- Hospitals – to alleviate pain in conjunction with anaesthesia or pain medication: elevate patients’ mood and counteract depression; promote physical rehabilitation; calm or sedate; counteract apprehension or fear, and lessen muscle tension
- Schools – to strengthen non-musical areas such as communication skills and physical coordination skills which are important for daily life.
- Rest and Productivity – to influence cognitive states. Brain.fm is a collective of musicians, engineers, scientists and entrepreneurs obsessed with exploring and expanding music’s relationship to the brain. They believe it is a powerful tool for therapy and mental performance.
- Sport – to inspire peak physical performance. Christopher Bergland is a world-class endurance athlete, coach, author, and political activist. He writes about the power of music for peak performance: “You can dial up a mood, mindset or perception on demand by choosing music that elicits a specific emotional response in you. As an athlete, I developed an ideal mindset for peak performance and used an arsenal of time-tested songs to fortify this alter ego and invincible state of mind. I used music to stay optimistic and see the glass as perpetually half-full while doing ultra-endurance races. You can use music as a tool when you work out or in your daily life the same way.”
But Is Music Good For Business?
We believe that it is also good for business. We use music as a metaphor to help individuals, teams and organisations become more effective at what they do.
Music is one of the most powerful neurobiological tools we have to influence our mindset and behaviour. It engages us individually, and communally. Personally, and in a crowd. And because it opens up our emotions in such a non-threatening and accessible way, that makes it so exceptionally effective for corporate life.
In fact, research now shows us what’s happening in our brain when we listen to music: “Music is known to tap into various parts of the brain, that is why it is utilized by many experts in treating depressed or anxious patients. The meter, timber, rhythm and pitch of music are managed in areas of the brain that deal with emotions and mood. These key areas are the hippocampus, prefrontal cortex and the parietal lobe.”
The hippocampus, a structure of the limbic system, is responsible for spatial orientation, navigation and the consolidation of new memories. It also brings about emotional responses. The prefrontal cortex, on the other hand, manages extreme impulses and emotions. Known as the “seat of good judgment,” it enables one to make good and acceptable calls so that inappropriate behaviours are prevented.”
Music That Can Impact Organisations
At its most simple, music is a pleasure to listen to. It “…can create peak emotions, which increase the amount of dopamine, a specific neurotransmitter that is produced in the brain and helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers“. However, music can be useful as well as enjoyable. “Our newfound understanding of how music affects the brain and heart is leading to innovative ways to utilize music and the brain to create emotional understanding between people.”
These are some of the ways that we’ve seen a positive impact on organisations:
- Leadership skills – experiencing how conductors lead musicians to perform at their very highest capacity under pressure
- Communication – observing the communication skills of a successful string quartet and performing together
- Change Management – performing together can help teams develop a greater understanding of how they work together more effectively in a changing environment
Music has the ability to bring people together however challenging their corporate circumstances and create a collaborative setting.
Northern Rock experienced this in 2008. Although the company stabilised and the Directors turned their attention towards recovery, some of their staff were struggling to move on. Whenever they tried to look forward, their rhetoric was still in the past.
MP provided a unique opportunity for the team to face where they were at and find the tools to move forward. We led them through a business-focused, creative experience that produced a dramatic impact. We achieved all the objectives set out by Northern Rock. In fact, the results were more successful than imagined.
In 2015 we closed Cisco’s Global IT Conference in California. It was a unique experience for us and for 550 of their senior leaders from around the globe.
We shared six powerful insights into Orchestrating High Performance, accompanied by a live band, a flash mob, and a professional recording, resulting in a room full of leaders engaged and inspired.
Guillermo Diaz, Cisco’s Chief Information Officer, wrote to us saying,“Ben and his team are AMAZING! Their ability to quickly understand, simplify and orchestrate a 500 person team toward a common cultural mission was beyond my expectations! In 90 minutes, they took us out of our comfort zone and the outcome was a mindset of a FASTER, SIMPLER and TOGETHER Cisco IT – with a recording that I can¹t get out of my head. Thank you Ben and Team!!”
Music Can Make You Fall In Love!
So music is not just a mood-enhancing device for lovesick Orsinos. Or even a helpful tool for improving your physical and mental health. Music can move whole organisations to remember why they fell in love with what they do in the first place!
We provide businesses and other organisations with the opportunity to witness a world-class performance and experience what they’re capable of. This translates powerfully back into the workplace. It increases engagement and productivity changing organisations for the better.