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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