From Serendipity Lab to Idea Rap

In April we did half-day music thinking workshop for an international think tank that stands for ‘brands with a conscience’. The idea was to generate new ideas for the celebration of their 20th anniversary in 2020.

The main materials we used was the Jam Cards and the overall music thinking framework.

First, they diverged using the Serendipity Lab approach. After that, they worked in duos’ and quartets to create a long list of ideas. Then, instead of just presenting the ideas, the members acted like a music group and wrote the lyrics in co-creation and then performed a short Rap to give the ideas more spontaneity and emotions.

Here is a short video that shows the whole process and spontaneous creativity.

For more information on the Medine Group and Brands with a Conscience:

Entrainment – what makes a great team?

There are many books written about team building. Amazon lists more than 8.000 titles and a quick search on google results in 4.880.000.000 links, as of today. There is one aspect of interacting teams that I find interesting. It is the moment when things come together when we are in sync or in flow (like Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls it). I call this entrainment.

Entrainment is a difficult word and not used in daily conversation, that’s a pity because it is used in different references: the practice of entraining one’s brainwaves to a desired frequency, the synchronization of organisms to an external rhythm, the alignment of a circadian system’s period and phase to the period and phase of an external rhythm, the process whereby two interacting oscillating systems assume the same period and so on.

The Entrainment Card

The essence of the entrainment card is how can we reach entrainment as a duo, trio, or a bigger group.  So as a team or organisation we could ask questions like: What does it need from every individual to act as one? To what theme, rhythm or signal can we have entrainment? What are the moments when you recognize that you are in entrainment with others and What behaviour can lead to entrainment? And most of all: How can we encourage or facilitate everyone to do this?

The picture

The Night Watch is one of the most famous Dutch Golden Age paintings. Militia Company of District II under the Command of Captain Frans Banninck Cocq, also known as The Shooting Company of Frans Banning Cocq and Willem van Ruytenburch, but commonly referred to as The Night Watch (Dutch: De Nachtwacht, 1642 painting by Rembrandt van Rijn.)

There is so much written about this phenomenal painting, but I want to lead your attention to the right side of the painting, where the drummer is only partly in the picture. What intrigues me is that he is in total sync with the two protagonists in the middle of the painting and they are in sync of the rhythm from the drummer. You see in the concentration in the face of the drummer that he is focussed in being in sync, helping everyone to come together. And the protagonists hear the rhythm and act upon it.


The quote

We train ourselves over a period of years to be able to hear rhythms and anticipate combinations of sounds before they actually happen.

American jazz pianist Roland Hanna describing an essential capability in improvisation and playing jazz. It is more than just being in sync in playing together like in an orchestra, it is being in sync without knowing beforehand what will come but developing, instant composing, anticipating and co-creating.

The music

Poème Symphonique is a composition by György Ligeti for one hundred mechanical metronomes. The piece is written for ten “performers”, each one responsible for ten of the hundred metronomes. The metronomes are set up on the performance platform, and they are then all wound to their maximum extent and set to different speeds. Once they are all fully wound, there is a silence of two to six minutes, depending on the conductor; then, at the conductor’s signal, all of the metronomes are started as simultaneously as possible.

The beautiful sound of the different tempi gives the impression of rain. The piece typically ends with just one metronome ticking alone for a few beats. The metronomes are not in entrainment.


Here is an experimental video that ‘solves the problem of entrainment with the metronomes on different speed’.

Five metronomes are set to 176 bpm and placed on a Foamboard. When empty cans are placed underneath, the board is free to move from side to side and the metronomes are able to influence each other into synchronization.

When the cans are removed the metronomes are no longer physically coupled and some of them begin to fall out of step again.


The cues

The JAMMIN’ cue connects with the EMPATHY cue, this means we have to be creative and also have a feel for the other. We have to sense what the other is doing, needing, wanting and hopefully the other is doing the same. This means entrainment is not only done by one person, but it also needs at least two or more. If this works together we have the base for AGILITY, because like Roland Hanna is saying there is anticipation ‘before it really happens’. The REMIX is the result that shows this meaningful interaction.

Some inspirational links:

Rijksmuseum Announces Restoration of the Night Watch and Invites the Public to Watch 
Van Morrison, That’s entrainment
Flow the secret to happiness by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi


Music Thinking Jam Cards

 An inspirational card set for change makers, pattern recognisers, innovators, transformers and natural collaborators. The Jam Cards consist of 38 inspiration cards and six cue cards. All inspiration cards have a keyword, a visual and a sonic trigger, a trigger question, an inspirational quote, and six cues that connect with the Music Thinking Framework. You can use the cards from a strategic point of view, knowing what you want or need and a serendipity approach open to everything that will happen. ‘Music Thinking’ lets people work and play together in a new way with inspirations from the rich world of music.

Order the Music Thinking Jam Cards

You can order the jam cards via your local bookstore (worldwide) and have a nice chat with the people there and try the cards right away, or just buy them directly at BIS Publishers. Yes, you can also find them at,, and

Three ways to play with the Jam Cards

The Jam Cards are quite open-ended and don’t really need specific instructions on how to use them. This means that the Jam Cards can be used to shape your own exercises and workshops, which is fun but might be confusing as well.
To help you to get an idea on how to play with them, we explain in this blog post, with use of three variations, what your Jam Card session could look like: Serendipity Lab, Mix & Match, Strategy Jam.


Improvise like a jazz musician

Serendipity Lab is played alone and is about being open to the unexpected. You could do this by taking some quality time at home or the office.  We also think that this might be a great exercise for the start of a workshop because in a workshop you often don’t have private time and have to immediately react to others. Also, we believe that doing the Serendipity Lab prior to doing Mix and Match or Strategy Jam might be beneficial. Because the Serendipity Lab helps you to open up and to get familiar with the Jam Cards.

Start a Serendipity Lab session by flipping through the Jam Cards and picking out a few cards that for example appeal to you – or are most interesting, exciting, disturbing, boring or resonating. Now take a closer look at the cards that you picked. Put on headphones and listen to the sonic triggers by scanning the Spotify codes.
Go on a sonic safari and be open for the unexpected. What do the things you find on the cards mean to you? Can you find patterns in the set of cards you picked? Make notes about your findings.

We made a template for you that you can use during your Serendipity Lab session:
Download the Serendipity Lab template
You might also use a blank sheet or your sketchbook or notebook. Maybe make a dedicated one for the Jam Cards?


Play like a DJ

You can play Mix and Match together with a partner and share your likes and dislikes, insights, and create a journey or story together. It’s about empathy and collaboration and making a collection that makes sense to both of you.

Working in a larger group?
When you’re with a larger group you could start Mix and Match by putting as many Jam Cards on the table as people present. From the cards, on the table, everybody picks a card that appeals to them and explores the card for a few minutes and making notes before putting it back on the table. When everybody put their card back on the table, everybody picks a new card that does not appeal to them and also explores this card for a few minutes. Make notes.
After exploring the card that doesn’t appeal to you, team up with a person who picked the same card in this or in the previous round. Explain to each other why you picked the card and discuss this together. Can you understand why the other person picked the card?
After you discussed the card with each other, find up to four complementing Jam Cards that you can tell a story with that is worth sharing.

We made a template for you that you can use during the session.
Download the Mix and Match booklet


Think like a composer

Strategy Jam is played together with a group and is about making new connections. It works best when you already have a design challenge or theme that you would like to work on.

If not start the Strategy Jam with your group by picking a cue and its corresponding cue question. These cue questions can be found at the inside of the Jam Cards booklet. Now make additions to this cue question and/or come up with a challenge by yourself. Put the cue card in the middle of the table and sort out the inspiration cards that have the cue highlighted. Put the other inspiration cards aside. Now everybody picks one (or more) inspiration cards and explores those cards for a few minutes.

After everybody explored their cards one person starts by putting his/her inspiration card next to the cue card on the table. Then he/she explains how this card connects to the chosen challenge. Now the next person puts his/her inspiration card next to the previous card on the table and explains how this card connects to the previous card. Use both sides of the jam cards, also share the music that is on the card and see how this resonates with the group and possible new associations.

As an extra you can use post-it notes ‘as connectors’ between the jam cards:
– CONNECT: How the card connects
– CONVERGE: New ideas that pop up
– DIVERGE: New questions and possibilities that arise

This is a poster that you can use as a guide during the session:
Download the Strategy Jam poster


Feel free to experiment and develop your own rules
These are just a few examples on how you could play with the Jam Cards, but feel free to make your own variations and rules. We are curious to hear about how you use the Jam Cards!

Photos in this blog post were taken during the Creative Leadership Platform meetup at the Design Thinkers Academy.

Music Thinking breakout at Design Thinking Conference

Design Thinking Conference 2018 in Amsterdam

We did a music thinking workshop breakout on Friday 12th October at this year’s Design Thinking Conference in Amsterdam.

Like last year, the conference had the subtitle ‘through different eyes‘ and the focus on empathy. Instead of definitions, tools and showcases, the conference focused on inspirations to question oneself, debates getting further, perspectives outside the comfort zones, all in togetherness and positivism, and with a bit of lightness.

For more info about the conference see the facebook page.

Having empathy is not enough we have to remix all of our findings, inspirations and insights to move on.
Christof Zürn

From Empathy to Remix

Because Empathy is one of the six cues of music thinking we extended the theme to “through different ears” because music thinking starts with listening. We started our one-hour session with a very short explanation of the Music Thinking Framework and the new Music Thinking Approach to Service Design overview.  We divided the hour into the four sections Listen, Tune, Play and Perform of the framework. Empathy is the cue to change. It starts with listening.

We did three listening exercises: We started with Wide Listening, the awareness of sounds surrounding us (a link with John Cage and Pauline Oliveros). Then we did Close Listening, the exploration of a very near object (this is inspired by Terry Riley). The first two exercises were very short and after the exercises, the participants had to write down what they heard and what they thought. For the third exercise, we used the Jam Cards in Serendipity Lab mode, the participants used their smartphone to play the spotify codes that are on every card.

After the Listen phase, everybody stepped into the Tune phase and was looking for patterns, insights and surprises. Before the Play phase, we did the team grouping in duo, trio, quartet and quintet. The groups prepared each other for the 1-minute performances. 

Last years workshop

If you are interested in the last year’s workshop you can read more about it on the CREATIVE COMPANION blog and also hear a recording of the performance of the workshop group of John Cages 4’33’.

More info about the Design Thinking Conference