Drumming up inspiration for employment law in Spitalfields

Sheila Fahy

Whilst on a lunchtime walk in Spitalfields yesterday, I was struck by the distant sounds of drums which had a unique quality to them. Being a curious soul I set out to investigate. Now it has to be said that walking into the unusual in Spitalfields is an everyday occurrence as you are just as likely to share space with a Morris dancer as you are to be stopped in your tracks by a life-size, lifelike, robotic polar bear. That said, I was dumbfounded by the spectacle before me when I eventually found the busker.

drumstickSitting on the ground in Bishopsgate was a chap in his early 20s trying to earn a crust by mesmerising passers-by with his music. His tools of the trade were not your usual set of drums. Instead he was surrounded by a collection of household objects that looked like they had been retrieved from a skip. His make shift drumsticks resonated against plastic dustbins, empty petrol and paint cans, battered suitcases, woks and saucepans that had seen long service. You may be surprised to hear that the output was not cacophonous sounds but music that would have been at home in the percussion section in a professional orchestra. I was inspired.

What has all this to do with employment law and HR practice? Nothing and everything.

All too frequently when presented with a difficult employment problem that combines tricky legal issues, commercial considerations as well as human emotions, the tendency is to solve the problem by working methodically through the issues in silos and then bringing them all together to come up with a solution. What was evident from the drummer was that his starting point was the end game – what he wanted to achieve was original music. From that standpoint he worked backwards using whatever he needed, taking whatever path necessary, to succeed.

It also occurred to me that most businesses aspire to differentiate themselves by encouraging their workforces to be innovative in the search for the next big idea. Indeed a whole industry has grown up to show us how to do it. And yet the most innovative is often the most simple. Like the drummer using existing and recycled “stuff”, we too can go back to basics and, apply tried and tested principles in a novel way to find a more nuanced or creative solution.

Comments published on Employment Talk do not necessarily reflect the views of Allen & Overy.

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