team building events

Here’s a little fun fact about me you probably didn’t know (or I’m assuming you don’t know, because there’s a better-than-average chance we’ve never even met. Ah, the Internet…). As it turns out, I have perfect pitch. Here’s something else, though – I just found this out myself, and relatively recently!

First of all, what is perfect pitch? It’s the ability to recognize or re-create a musical note’s pitch, without hearing it or a reference pitch. In practical terms, it means a few things: being able to identify a note just by hearing it (an “A,” for example), or the opposite – singing an “A” without being at the piano. It also means that you know which key a song should be in, without hearing it first (for an example, think karaoke: sometimes, to make a song more “user friendly” they karaoke bar will change the tuning, making it a little bit sharper or flatter so that it’s a better fit for peoples’ vocal ranges. A person with perfect pitch will find this maddening, since they’ll know instantly that the sing doesn’t sound “right”).

I started playing the saxophone when I was nine, and playing intensely all through my youth; hours upon hours each day, all through high school and college. I was always told by teachers and band leaders that I had a “good ear,” but never really thought much of it. What I did know, though, was that I didn’t like reading music (and wasn’t particularly good at it, either), but I could “play by ear” – any song I wanted to play I could play, I could play without any sheet music. And ALWAYS in the correct key.

When I first met my future wife – a music teacher and professional instrumentalist herself – she noticed right away that when I would hum, sing or whistle, it was always in the correct key. Whether it was at karaoke or just signing along to someone else who was singing, if the key was just a little bit off, I would correct it, and sing it the “right” way.” One day, she turned to me and said, “You know something, David? I think you have perfect pitch.” I was kind of shocked, since I’d never been told that before – I also didn’t know what the term meant at the time, but knew that whatever it was, it was pretty rare. She did a little test on me, and then said, “Oh my God – you DO have perfect pitch!”

Here’s the thing: I thought that EVERY musician could do that-  just pick up their instrument and play any song by ear, in the correct key. It turns out, I was wrong. And so, there you go. Apparently, I have perfect pitch..!

So why am I telling you this? You’re not reading this blog to find someone who can whistle in key as your next corporate party entertainment. But I suspect you DO want to know something more about the people you work with – particularly, your colleagues whom you work closest with, day in and day out. My question to you is: what kind of special skills, talents, or innate abilities do your teammates have, which you never knew about? Or perhaps, what special things about YOU don’t your co-workers know?

Studies have shown that the most important factor in creating a happy workplace is having co-workers whom you like, and enjoy working with (to read one such study, follow this link). I’ve been producing corporate entertainment and office team building events in New York City, Southern California and across the country for a long time, over ten years now – I can say to you definitively that people who know one another better, get along better. When you know what makes each other tick, when you know what your colleagues love and what they hate, as well as what makes them special and unique, it just makes it easier to like each other.

There is also something special about finding out how much you have in common with your co-workers. At TrivWorks corporate trivia events, we see it all the time: the youngest intern and the oldest executive know the answer to the question, because they’ve both seen the same movie, and loved it for the same reasons. It’s a fantastic way to disarm conflict, to defuse the tension and power struggle which we know exists in virtually every workplace, regardless of industry. When we discover that we have something in common with someone else – particularly something intimate that’s not often shared or discussed, such as a scene from a movie released 20 years ago – there is a visceral effect. We relax, we let our hair down, we open ourselves up and become more vulnerable, and by default more trusting.

Why is this a good thing, you ask? Well, let me ask YOU: don’t you want to work in a high-trust, highly-collaborative environment? Wouldn’t you rather see your people laughing and socializing and interacting with one another, rather than be isolated in their silos? Don’t you want to foster an environment which promotes teamwork, encourages synergy, and rewards innovation? All of these things are key to creating a positive, strong-morale workplace, where productivity – and revenues – are high!

Is knowing intimate details about your colleagues in and of itself going to produce a positive workplace? I can’t say that my having perfect pitch has made my fellow professional trivia emcees and event producers enjoy being around me more, nor helped any of us do our jobs better. But the simple act of “opening up” is itself incredibly liberating, as it invites more familiarity and helps bridge the distance between us. When we find out things about each other we didn’t know before, when we learn how much we have in common that we didn’t realize, it helps remind us that we’re all human, after all; we shouldn’t take the politics of work so seriously. People who enjoy each other’s company and feel they can trust those whom they work with, are going to do a better job then those who don’t – period!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I hear somebody whistling a song outside, and have to go correct them.