November 20, 2014

Could Forming an Office Music Band Optimize Teamwork?

I’ve recently made a curious discovery about my fellow co-workers. Whether it's a lunchtime break or the rare after-work, for some reason our conversation tends to gravitate toward the subject of music. One employee will say, “I used to be an opera singer.” Another will volunteer, “I play the guitar.” Me? I play the oboe. Even the CEO is in on this peculiar pattern,  we eventually find out, with his lifelong devotion to playing the piano.

Cue general bemusement and the collective conclusion that almost every Excosoft employee has some form of musical background.

It's only a matter of time, really. Someone is bound to suggest that we all bring our beloved instruments to the office for an after-hours jam session. So far, this hasn't happened, and our neighbors remain happy. Still, it’s an interesting aspect of the Excosoft team, this shared musicality. But what does it all mean?

Well, actually there are several academic studies examining the effect of music on the human brain. Here follows a fairly non-academic summary of interesting findings and how they might relate to the musically inclined personnel at Excosoft.

Musicians think fast on their feet

Learning to play music is sometimes compared to learning another language—both tasks are complex and might actually change the way one's brain functions. Both involve rapidly identifying sensory information from the outside world, and applying a learned set of rules in order to make a choice—"do or don’t."

Studies have shown that the musician’s brain may be better than the average when it comes to its capacity to quickly assign a context and appropriate response to sensory information; as musicians get a lot of practice translating visual and/or auditory stimuli (i.e., the noises and movements one's co-musicians make) into motor responses. In layman’s terms; music-making improves a person's ability to think on their feet.

Musicians are savvy problem-solvers

Music-making involves both halves of the brain. Both the left hemisphere (the mathematical and calculating part), and the right hemisphere (where creativity lives), are equally stimulated when playing music. This leads to a strong corpus callosum; the neural link between the two brain halves.

Musicians have been reported to have a significantly larger corpus callosum frontal portion than non-musicians. This enlargement means that the two brain halves can communicate more quickly than usual. The assumption, based on this fact, is that musicians are more likely to be skillful problem-solvers.

Not to brag, but...

In summary, thinking on one’s feet and problem solving are allegedly two of benefits derived by music-makers. Interesting. Not to brag, but, in observance of the often rapid decision making and creative solution finding among my colleagues at work, it does makes sense.

A team that plays music together works well together?

The general skills involved in playing music together seems to be applicable to any sort of teamwork— certainly at Excosoft, as I have observed. You might need some solitary practice to sharpen your contribution. But after that, you have to coordinate your actions so that they synergize nicely with those of your colleagues. Fill in with a missing note from time to time to keep things flowing. Work in harmony to complete a demanding project. You can’t perform a symphony alone.

So could forming an office band serve to further optimize teamwork? I certainly think so.

But don’t take offence now if you’re one of those people who abandoned musical training in elementary school only to happily never look back. Any shared office interests are, of course, likely to improve communication and teamwork. The important thing is to find a common language, right?

Well, it looks like I might be the one to finally suggest that after-work jam session at Excosoft–- bring your earplugs… you know, just in case.

Do you and your co-workers play music together? Or share another after-work activity? Do share! 

To read more articles by Peter, and the rest of our musically inclined team at Excosoft, feel free to browse our blog feed!

About the author

Peter Strömbäck

Super-linguist of the team, Peter has extensive knowledge in linguistics, translation, and technical writing. Plus, he’s positive and hard-working.

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