As a VP of drug development leading large, multi-disciplinary development teams in large pharma, Liz Stott knows that collaboration and cooperation behaviours are key to driving delivery, and in her experience they are often developed through structured team effectiveness interventions which allow people to bond through a focus on shared goals.

More often than not though, the ‘fun’ element is either seen as a chance to unwind after hard sessions nailing strategy and ways of working, or at their worst are highly competitive events that bring out the worst in people.

Based on her experience, and with a small team of likeminded and skilled facilitators, Liz has developed a concept called the ensemble effect. It is a unique team building experience based around singing, which encourages people to cooperate, rather than compete; encourages everyone participating to help each other deliver good results, and allows time for reflection on how the learning can be taken back into the workplace. The experience is great fun and remains long in the memory.

In a non-competitive setting, research in the Royal Society Open Science journal suggests that singing helps groups of people to bond very quickly, which may go some way to explaining why singing has evolved as a way of emotionally connecting large groups of individuals simultaneously (e.g. in most religions there is a singing or chanting element). It is also very topical – singing is being used to bond the four nations represented in the Lions squad as they take on the might of New Zealand at rugby union this summer.

The research suggests that group unity depends on behaviours that are synchronous and involve some muscular effort, which trigger the release of the feel-good brain chemicals such as β-endorphin and oxytocin. This yields an enhanced positive affect, which in turn enhances an individual’s willingness to cooperate.

The unique blend of singing and performance activities that is the ensemble effect comes from our collective experiences as individuals, and working together closely as a team. In the music community, our methods of achieving cooperation, responsibility and group achievement has already yielded rapid success that we want to bring to teams and organisations in any setting to give them an emotional reference point for future success.

Importantly, no-one has to be a wonderful singer to reap the benefits. The benefits come from participating in a shared experience where all are actively involved and focused on achieving a collective goal. Making music with the ensemble effect will not only improve someone’s ability to understand the role they play within their team, it will transform their relationships, wellbeing and productivity too!