Alive Inside... : The Lift | Brian@GrowthWorks

Alive Inside...

by Brian McDermott on 04/28/12

I love this video clip every which way...

It's a promo for a new documentary about an experiment using music to bring a little dignity back into the lives of people suffering from dementia and Alzheimer's. There are 16,000 nursing homes in the United States, and 5.6 million people whose minds are going blank. The experiment appears to work. Dramatically.

As someone who works on the "people side" of facilitating change and innovation in businesses, Alive Inside, also strikes me as a powerful metaphor. There are a lot of workplaces in which leaders say, "Employees are our most important asset," but lead in ways that diminish people's spirits -- inflicting creative dementia through micromanagement, undervaluing individual talents and ideas, and dismissing well-intentioned challenges to the discouragement of the status quo with a wave of the "Sorry, that's the way we do things here" flag.

The question for Dan Cohen, the social worker who started this experiment, was focused on what it would take to reengage the light and spirit in lives assumed to be lost and unreachable.

The parallel question for me, thinking about how to make a workplace innovative and successful, is focused on what it takes to engage rather than disenfranchise workers. In my experience, that kind of awakening starts with meaningful and purposeful work and the chance for people to use their unique talents and skills as much as possible.

I marvel at the new hope this experiment provides for the elders in our lives. And I wonder, if iPods and a little personalized music can rekindle a spark in lives that seemed all but lost to age and illness, what can be accomplished by paying better attention to what causes minds and spirits to go blank in the workplace.

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Comments (5)

1. Tim said on 4/28/12 - 11:06AM
Brian - thanks so much for posting this. My mum (I'm in the UK) has dementia and I've also experienced the power of the music she loves. After watching this I'm going to become more organised with it and put all her favourite music on an ipod for her.... I also agree fully with your use of it as a metaphor for engagement with work. This is just a great post! Thanks again....
2. Gail Severini said on 4/29/12 - 10:24AM
Brian, you do find the most inspiring videos. Thanks for sharing.
3. Dianna Fuller said on 4/29/12 - 12:10PM
Thanks Brian! I have shared this on my facebook page.
4. Karen said on 4/29/12 - 02:09PM
What great inspiration, Brian ~ thanks for sharing. I recall going to see my dad at the veterans home; he too suffered with Alzheimer's. I would oneof the harmonicas with me that he had given me, and was utterly amazed at the transformation as he played Amazing Grace, In the Garden and many more of the hymns he always played when I was a young child, all from "memory." The nurses remarked how he always would come alive when he played his music, even if it was just an odd melody that made sense to him. Yes, reengaging the spirit ~ you have given us a challenge to do so in our own spaces and places
5. Herky Cutler said on 5/8/12 - 04:52PM
This is very cool! As a musician and consultant who has developed to use music in team building and as a career development tool, I whole heartedly believe in the power of music!

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