Music and intelligence analysis

So, last time I talked about trying to incorporate different sensory inputs in order to improve analytical production.  Now I’m entering into speculative territory here but while I was primarily looking to different types of visual stimuli (the written word, graphics, images, etc.) I’ve been thinking about the possibility of using our sense of hearing to either improve the analytical or production process.

I therefore submit to you, then, this interesting project.  It takes a piece of classical music and, while you’re listening to it, describes it with accompanying text.  In doing so it conveys more information that either the musical piece or the text individually AND more then if you experienced both but separately.  The ‘extra’ value comes from getting the explanation at the same time the music is playing.  That not only reduces the chance of miscommunication (‘Is this supposed to be the teeth chattering or….this?’) but also helps improve the ‘stickiness’ of the information.  Associating the text with the music helps ‘anchor’ it in your mind.  The next time you listen to the music you’ll be more likely to remember the text.

Is there any value in incorporating music into the production process?  Might customers retain more with particular accompaniment?  Could music be used to emphasize particular pieces of information?  How about in terms of explaining probability, risk or threat?  Does the human mind respond consistently to certain types of music and sound or is the process so individualistic that the incorporation of sound is just as likely to hinder the transference of meaning as enhance it.

Up to now I’ve been talking about the production part of the intelligence cycle but music might have an easier fit in the analytical part of the cycle.  There’s evidence that distraction can assist in problem solving, particularly in helping identify weak connections between items or when thinking about difficult problems with multiple variables.  Sitting down and trying to force yourself to solve problems doesn’t work well when compared having your subconscious take a crack at it.

The goal is to get into the proper mental state:

It means not actively working on a problem but instead letting yourself happily mind-wander, freely associating and relaxing into a quiet mental state. It is like being okay to feel how you feel when you first wake up in the morning – relaxed, with diffuse, easy attention.

I’ve found that some of my best insights came about when I was most definitely not working on the problem that needed solving.  Running, reading, sleeping or…yes…listening to music.  I began wondering if there was any possibility tapping into that insight potential collaboratively after playing with my latest time sink, turntable.fm.  Is there any benefit to having analysts, working on the same problem, simultaneously sharing something like music playlists and listening to the same songs at the same time?  If you assume that a person’s choice in music is a reflection of their mental state and preferences, would sharing music give you a glimpse into how other analysts are thinking?  If so, would that help to look at problems through a slightly different perspective and, therefore, improve you problem solving skills?

Many questions for which I have no answers but interesting to think about.  Now, time to listen to some tunes….

One Response to Music and intelligence analysis

  1. I found the link to the orchestrated text very interesting – thanks for that. I’m not sure about the purpose of it – as a cognitive exercise it’s fascinating but I think it ultimately has a narrow application – someone’s teeth chattering could be my nervous anticipation, their storm my runaway train – I’m not sure I want someone else’s imagery defining my own experience!
    We’ve only really started to scratch the surface of how auditory input affects us, although there has been an explosion in music related study in the last decade. There are a number of firms that are offering services to retailers in order to shape their audio environment and yes – restaurants know which music to play to deliver an increase in sales and large corporations have studies what to play in the communal areas of their buildings. Google Julian Treasure and watch a few of his TED talks – it’s interesting and powerful stuff.
    As for ideation and problem solving – I’m intrigued by the idea of a communal playlist / problem. I have used certain types of music during brainstorming sessions to good effect but most of the research indicates that – as with the orchestrated text – human beings shape their own individual relationship with a piece of music. So a playlist that might work for one person might not hold for another – purely due to past personal experience.
    I love music!

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