Handpans and the Status Quo

11/14/2017 5:03 PM | Paul Venderley (Administrator)

While leading his session titled: “Leadership Agility and Culture Change Through the Power of Play,” facilitator Gary Muszynski introduced us to the handpan.

This instrument is a recent contrivance which appears to have first been produced in the 2000’s. It looks like a metallic tortoise shell, and its sound is reminiscent to that of a steel drum (which apparently are also called ‘steel pans’). Here’s a video to give you an idea of what a handpan sounds and looks like.

We did not get good seats for the concert...Gary’s handpan came out at the end of the session, as Gary discussed how an improvisational leader reacts in moments of change or ambiguity. But there was another message that struck me as I watched Gary's performance.  Gary's improvisation came from his passion for the simple act of making music, and of embracing new ways to make that music. When he learned of the handpan he didn’t dismiss it as a curiousity, content with his established career of playing instruments with a rich tradition and history. Instead, he chose to move beyond the way he had always been doing things and considered how he could incorporate this new, unheard-of instrument into his program.

Moving beyond the way things have always been done seemed to be a theme throughout the ATD Regional Conference (Southern California Chapter), at least in the sessions I had attended.

It began with Galen Emanuele’s keynote “Creating a ‘Yes, And’ Culture of High-Level Performance and Engagement,” in which the simple activity of composing a letter one word at a time opened the group to broader improvisational and creative possibilities. It continued with Paul Signorelli’s challenge that today’s classroom need not be confined within four walls (we knew that), or even within one organizational structure. In his workshop on creating video learning content, Tim Smith challenged us to think about different ways to utilize tools we already have, and created a quick instructional video using -- wait for it -- PowerPoint. And when he was not leading a group of talkative talent development professionals wordlessly, with naught but a Shaker Egg, Gary Muszynski was demonstrating how a simple activity of moving rocks around in a circle could lead to deep insights about everything from supply chain to collaborative leadership.

There’s passion in that simple act of moving beyond the status quo. Passion in exploring a new route, in wondering how a new technique or tool could be applied to your current environment. There’s excitement brewing in the simple phrase “Yes, and…”, and a thrill in uncovering the sublime within the simple.

And in those introspective moments borne on the ride home, a question arose: am I bringing that passion to my work?


If you’re now thinking: “Golly, sounds like I missed an interesting conference,” don’t worry. I’ve little doubt that these presenters won’t be a part of ATD ICE when it comes to San Diego next May.

Obligatory ICE Conference Link here

Obligatory prompt to use our Chapter Code when registering here.


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