Shifting metaphors, shifting mindsets: Using music to change the key of conflict


Published: 6Nov2017

Authors: Linda M.Ippolito and Nancy J. Adler

Publication: Journal of Business Research, Forthcoming


Music- and art-based interventions in organizations have become more common, yet to date little research-based evidence has existed to support the claims of efficacy of such approaches. This article presents a mixed methods research study that explored the effects of introducing a music-based metaphor and pedagogical approach to teaching, learning, and resolving conflict. The study provides insights into whether and how the musical ensemble metaphor might assist in shifting adversarial, combative, and competitive approaches toward more collaborative, settlement-oriented mindsets and outcomes. In addition, the study offers an understanding of whether and how music-infused pedagogy might assist in developing enhanced skills and practice behaviors that would lead to more desirable outcomes. Results from this initial study suggest that non-musicians in non-musical contexts are able to learn from musical metaphors and concepts related to ensemble music-making and that such cognitive, affective, and behavioral learning translates into changed and more effective behavior in practice. In simulated scenarios, study participants who were introduced to the musical metaphor and other music-based learning outperformed colleagues who were not exposed to similar music-based learning. Engagement with music appears to reconnect people to their creative potential and thus to lead them to see the value of employing creative thinking in professional settings that traditionally over-emphasize analytical and critical thinking. Such music-based collaborative approaches appear to have the potential to shift traditional norms and behaviors.

Read full article: Journal of Business Research, Forthcoming 

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