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Cover image for My Experience Having a Collaborative Music Playlist at Work

My Experience Having a Collaborative Music Playlist at Work

mtliendo profile image Michael Liendo ・3 min read

In hindsight, it really seemed like it would've been such a great idea.

The notion of having a collaborative Spotify playlist would mean that we could get to know one another by sharing the music that we enjoyed the most.

I'm getting ahead of myself.

Let's first have an overview of my team.

Awareness of Team Dynamics

My team is fairly diverse. We consist of six members, and without asking them how they identify, I'd say we generally suit the following:

  • White female
  • Indian female
  • Asian male
  • White male
  • White male
  • myself, Black male

This level of diversity is uncommon in the tech industry, and a testament to the awareness that my manager carries. It also means that we carry a wide net of cultural and societal differences.

As such, it's a bit ironic that in doing an activity aimed at becoming closer, it enforced just how different some of us are.

The Musical Interview

When job searching, many of us can think back to when we had a soft-skill interview. This is commonly positioned at ensuring a candidate is a good "culture fit" for a team.

The problem with culture fit interviews is that they typically ask for a candidate to reveal if they adhere to the same perspectives as the rest of the team, or not.

This can be exclusionary to minorities in an industry dominated by white males.

In relation, something as defining as our music choice becomes another way to gain that insight since the genres we are drawn towards--even as adults, are deeply connected to the upbringings of our adolescent years.

Spotify user data

I like rap music with a hard beat, lessons on overcoming tough environments and explicit language (optional).

In contrast, the Indian woman on my team said, "My knowledge about songs is very limited". However, I would bet she does have song favorites, but her comment was likely under the context of American music.

That was my first indication that this type of collaboration may not be the best.

Then the first song uploads came in: melodic, transient, soft-rock.

Current team collaborative music

So here I am, at a code-switching fork in the road: Do I reveal my identity, by adding music that I truly enjoy, or do I add music that is more conforming to the wholly identity of the team?

One could definitely argue that without my unique perspective, there is no "wholly identity of the team". I'm more-so talking about an unwritten feeling of uniformity and a general sense of belonging.

I spent an undisclosed amount of work time mulling over thisπŸ˜…

Eventually, I made a very passive statement to try and understand the intent, but wasn't given any direction.

passive statement asking team for direction on song choice

Intent vs Outcome

Let's circle back to why this playlist was created in the first place:

"...to kick off some team building, why don't we share some of our favorite bands/songs?"

To understand the relationship between a variety of music and how that music identifies our varied perspectives, is to understand the relationship between diversity and inclusion.

In other words, the intent was to have a cohesive playlist that could be listened to. However the outcome is a segmented list of songs that highlight our individuality--which is perfectly fine, so long as that purpose is well understood upfront.

Retrospective

Working within a UX team means that we collect data from our users and use that data to influence our direction and decision-making.

I think a fun experiment, would be for every member of a team to write down 3 of their favorite songs with the understanding that it could be from any year, genre or otherwise.

Then put those songs in a playlist as a soft indicator of how diverse a team is. The red flag wouldn't be on how different the playlist is, but rather how similar.


This all goes to say that collaborative work playlists may be fine as a team building exercise, however, it should come with a fair amount of reflection and appreciation of a variety.

If by chance I've scared you and put you off to the idea of creating a collaborative playlist, fear not! I have an entire thread dedicated to discovering more ideas that serve as great team building exercises even while working remote!

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Michael Liendo

@mtliendo

Egghead Instructor. UX Engineer @johnDeere. Teacher. Learner. The journey's been tough, fun, and I've learned so much! Teaching, coding and speaking at conferences 😍

Discussion

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Good insight! I often wonder about the validity of those team building exercises

 

Thanks for checking out the article.

Regarding validity, my bet is that they're usually well-intentioned, but may miss the mark on the desired effect.