In The Company of Drums: Corporate Rhythms

Interview of Jim Greiner published in Making Music Magazine July, 2005

Pioneering drum circle facilitators like… Jim Greiner of Hands-On! Drumming, have been taking percussion instruments into the corporate world since the 1980s.

Greiner discovered how useful (drum) circles were for companies on the cutting edge of globalization. When he conducted a corporate program in the 1980s for Sun Microsystems, lack of English wasn’t the problem; it was the different work styles and cultural expectations among team members from Japan, India, Europe and North America. “I used the universality of drumming as a metaphor for the fundamental nature of human interactions, values and goals”, says Greiner. “By the end of the 90-minute session, the participants had created their own unique rhythmic culture.”

Team building and multicultural awareness are just two uses for a coporate drum circle. There are many others. Larry Narachi, Internet technology manager at Kyphon, a firm specializing in orthopedic medicine, recently invited Greiner to facilitate a drum circle that emphasized nonverbal communication skills for members of different departments. “Sixty people participated in the program”, says Narachi. “It’s the first time our company has done this, and the experience was a great one!”

Greiner has had his fair share of challenges when organizing circles. … the versatility of drums enables him to turn them into memorable teaching moments.

“The restaurant chain Chipotle once asked me to do a team-building, motivational program for 160 managers,” says Greiner. “The program took place in a meeting room above a hotel restaurant that was still serving lunch. The planner was concerned that we might disturb the restaurant patrons.”

So Greiner turned to a low-volume version of his drum program, using 10-inch frame drums and maracas. “I actually used the low volume as a way to show how the Chipotle managers could train their staff to deal with fast-paced operations while maintaining an atmosphere of tranquility for their patrons.”

Tammy Weis, vice president of business development at CommuniCare, an Ohio-based assisted living management firm, brought in Greiner … to complement the celebratory and motivational mood of the company’s annual meeting and awards ceremony.

Greiner placed drums at the dinner tables so the staff could play drum rolls on them instead of clapping when the awards were handed out. “The staff loved it!” exclaims Weis. “Jim then did a motivational drum circle, which was good after the awards ceremony, because some of the stories were quite poignant. He helped elevate the mood. People really let loose their inner drummers!”