Unbeatable Energy have just delivered their first international corporate drumming event - a 20 minute Boomwhacker Conference Ice Breaker at the ANA Crowne Plaza in Japan. Steve Rivers went on a crazy two day trip across the world where he met some of the most polite and friendliest people on the planet; experienced complete ‘body clock’ confusion and lead a high spirited Boomwhacker Conference Ice Breaker which was definitely in the top ten of our most memorable corporate experiences. Here is Steve Rivers’ account of the trip:
Bang On Time! ''When I arrived at Narita Airport, I received my first experience of Japanese customer care. Being extremely jet lagged from a 10 hour trip I left a rather important folder on the plane. I realised what I had done when I was waiting for the bus to the hotel. Since it was nearly 40 minutes before the bus would come, I decided to go back to the airport to see if I could get it back. 'When I got to the information desk I was touched by how genuinely concerned the woman was at the help desk. She said that if I went up to the fourth floor I could ask at the check in gate for departures. When I got there, the staff immediately made some calls and then a gentleman told me to go back down stairs to the information desk and someone would deliver my folder in seven minutes! Seven minutes?! – such a precise time! When I got downstairs a gentleman arrived in (would you believe it) seven minutes and with impeccable courtesy said ‘Here is your folder sir’. Wow! What a fantastic welcome to Japan! Not only did they find my folder, they even took the trouble of walking down four flights of stairs to give it to me in person! ''In Japan everything was punctual. Whatever was said on paper actually happened - buses were on time, food was served in lightning speed, and during the conference there was absolutely no roll over time. Everything in the schedule happened exactly as stated. I was incredibly impressed by this and it made me wonder what it is that makes everything work so well to the clock - or for that matter why it is that things frequently run over time in the UK. Perhaps it is merely a state of mind. In the UK we are used to things being late and so we accept it as inevitable – in Japan it seems socially unacceptable for anything being less than absolutely punctual!''
A small change of plan - ''Harpo'' speaks! ''Conference events frequently involve last minute changes. We always have a clear organised plan but have to be prepared to adapt to different circumstances when they arise. As this was to be an international multilingual conference, my original plan had been to mime the entire event – to facilitate without talking and hence let the international language of music speak for itself. However, because of a few logistical changes , it became apparent that I would need to speak to the audience at the start of the session. This was to ask some delegates to join up with other rows which were rather sparsely populated. Hence the moment I spoke I could no longer be the silent ‘Harpo Marx’ and instead had to facilitate more in the spirit of his brother Groucho – without the cigar and moustache of course!''
The International Language of Music ''Facilitating the event provided an important lesson for me – to put more trust in people irrespective of cultural differences and limitations of language. The conference was for 131 delegates from all over Asia: China, Japan, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. Given the diversity of cultures, I had been concerned that there might be some level of difficulty in explaining/interpreting some of the instructions to delegates. I was also worried that some delegates might not understand the powerful business metaphor from the Boomwhacker activity – the way it demonstrates through rhythm and harmony the principles and values of cooperation through listening and responding to the needs of the wider team.
''As it turned out I needn’t have been too worried. I’m not quite sure whether everyone understood exactly what I said, but once the musical parts came together, one may have asked ‘what was not to understand?’ It all worked outstandingly! The long reds and greens created a stable ‘tick-tock’ rhythm. As their single and double pulse beats locked together, they created a solid platform for the rest of the colours. The oranges and yellows created the dialogue – the question and answer – 'three beats here' and 'three beats there'! The purples and short reds were the icing on the cake. Their rhythms provided the final missing piece in the music. When they joined in the ‘musical party’ was in full swing. The groups shouted out ‘Hey!’ in the spaces of their rhythm, and half way through the session I saw the back row of purples start to dance and move into the space at the front. At the end of the event I laughed to myself about some of the fears and reservations I had prior to the session – what was all that about? When it comes to making music it really doesn’t matter whether one is Japanese, Chinese, Australian, Swedish, Indonesian or Malaysian – we may not speak the same language but through music the communication and understanding is there immediately – music really is a universal language!''
Unbeatable Energy would like to thank CWA for giving us this fantastic opportunity to share ‘musical bliss’ on the other side of the world! It was an absolute pleasure to work with Siyuan, Patrick and the rest of the CWA team. They were incredibly friendly and took such a positive interest in ensuring that the logistics, presentation and execution of the session worked efficiently and to the highest standard.
Thanks also to the team at ANA Crowne Plaza who were all extremely helpful and courteous. A very tired and jet-lagged Steve Rivers slept well in his comfortable bed and the amazing Japanese breakfast buffet really set him up for the day!
Contact CWA for outstanding event design and management for international events.