Need to figure out how to drum up a hot new software concept? Tired of beating your head against the wall when one department's techie teammates can't seem to play nicely with each other? Charles Kaplan, PhD, has just the thing to help make it all better. Everyone get together and, as the song says, "just bang on de drum all day."
Kaplan, founder of New Haven, Conn.-based RhythmWorks Organizational Development (tag line: "organizational development with a beat") came to his belief in better business through drumming when he joined a hand-drumming circle with some locals on a Hawaiian beach one night. A doctoral student of psychology at the time, that night ended up not just changing the course of his dissertation, it led him into the brave new world of organizational development.
Believe it or not, there's actually scientific evidence backing up Kaplan's claim that groups that play together not only stay together, but learn and communicate more effectively, cooperate more with each other, and improve overall attitude. Independent studies show that people who are less anxious and depressed learn better, retain better, and comprehend more. Kaplan's own research shows that, compared to other mood-changing activities such as aerobics or listening to music, drummers were significantly happier and felt more cohesive as a group.
His clients, which include The Arbitron Co. and Yale University, seem to agree. Numerous groups of up to 200 people have learned to play better as teams through his workshops--not to mention let off some steam by whaling on the skins.
And don't worry if your group is musically disinclined or even downright tone-deaf, says Kaplan. "Everyone comes into it with performance anxiety, but the hand drum can be picked up by anyone and played in a meaningful way in a short period of time." Workshops, which can last from 90 minutes to three hours, begin with simple body stretching and end with everyone pounding out traditional West African beats on full-size handmade drums. He works with the meeting organizer to tie the drumming into the meeting's goals, and says that he can tailor a workshop for any purpose. (Check his Web site at www.rhythmworks.net for more info.)
Hey, it's one way to beat the meeting blues.