Conversations, relationships and learning: Spotify Tag

Lime green Volks Wagon old type two camper van at three sister near Glencoe in Scotland - mountain backgrounds stunning scenary.

Julie Drybrough takes us on a tour of Scotland, music and collaboration

A couple of years ago we rented a campervan and meandered our way up the west coast of Scotland to Skye. As you can imagine, there were a lot of driving hours. During our travels we developed Spotify Tag – a game where someone picks an initial music track (from Spotify – other streaming services are available) and the next person tags on a song, based on association, inspiration or a need to shift the whole thread in a different direction.

In the first days, we were bound by rules. In the next bit of the drive, we would pick songs that revolved around a word, or a topic like “place names”. The structure made us dig around our mental jukeboxes in sometimes complex ways: New York by Ryan Adams might be followed by London Calling by the Clash and then Waterloo by Abba. But if the next song was Donald Where’s your Troosers? does that count if my justification was because of the prominence of just coming down from the Isle of Skye and Abba flares made me think of trousers?

Loosen up

Over the years the game has become a lot looser. We pick tracks based on what’s popping up in our heads – a riff or a beat, or an artist that is obviously connected. This weekend was a 6-7 song run of 1950’s/60’s stuff we’d heard our parents play: Dean Martin, Doris Day, Julie London, Andy Williams. Not our usual fayre, but we were singing along, surprised at how familiar these tunes were. These days, if you feel you are becoming hemmed into a thread, you can merely shout “segue!” and tilt the whole sequence into something different – a bit of Hip Hop or Metal – whatever floats your boat.

The game only works if everyone is up for it – my teenage niece took some persuading to put her musical taste into the car…I suspect because of the extent to which she was judging my choices. I did force her to listen to Kenny Rogers’s The Gambler. It was a favourite of her Grandmothers, but I’m not sure my credibility has ever recovered.

The point is it’s about risk and response, about being willing to share a track or idea that someone else might not know or like. Sometimes, the mood in the car will fall flat because you pick an absolute clunker, but the recovery is all the sweeter when that happens.

Risk and reward

You take a little risk. You learn. You adapt. You hear new things or reconnect to old things. You find memories and stories. You notice when you are in a sad-song nose dive.

At the heart of Spotify Tag is acceptance, co-creation and a solid intention to make the journey better. In many ways it has roots in improvisation: offer, respond, always say yes and build, rather than reduce, be brave and take things in new directions. My sense is, that if we can get some of that spirit into some of our teams and learning design, organisational life might be a little sweeter.

So next time you are on a road trip, with passengers of all ages, connect to the car speakers, get folk to be brave – and considerate! Turns out All Too Well (Taylor’s 10 minute Version) leads to about 6 minutes of “when will it end”  in some quarters… and share joyfully.

Julie Drybrough

Julie Drybrough is and Organisational Consultant, Executive Coach/ Supervisor, Writer and Speaker at fuchsiablue

Julie Drybrough

Learn More →