Orchestral manoeuvres in the office

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The Independent Online
Paintballs, go karts, climbing mountains ... Bah! If you really want to build your senior executive team, get yourself a cello (or a triangle).

Michael Spencer, who is a violinist with the London Symphony Orchestra, has two missions. One of them, given that he's a musician, is to get to the pub as quickly as possible in the interval. The other is to become rich, with the help of his company, The Light Brigade, which aims to spread music among the masses; he is particularly keen on corporate masses.

Entrepreneur musicians are not uncommon: many of them are "fixers", gathering freelancers into instant orchestras with plausible names like the London City Symphonia. Nothing wrong with that: students of modern management might like to examine these orchestras as models of the "virtual company".

But Mr Spencer is more than a fixer - he wants companies to use live music more. Hiring a trio for a reception is a good idea; but that is just a start. "I want to act as a music consultant to the business community," he says.

One of his plans is to use music for team-building. First take your executives, he says. "Get them doing clapping exercises, then tell them to make a noise with a percussion instrument, then tell them to go off and make a musical picture of the sea in three hours." At the end of this, they will either be acting as a team or will have assaulted each other with the cymbals.

Mr Spencer assures me that his plan will work "even for the tone deaf". I believe him, but I'll stick to my group wig-powdering therapy if he doesn't mind.

I COULD easily fill this column with entries for the latest competition. Some of you seemed to have spent the entire week thinking up ideas when I'm sure you should have been out walking the parrot, or something. The task was to think of collective names for professions. It was amazing how many of you came up with words for journalists, which was not the way of winning champagne - they include a wreck, a quaff, slurp ..... alas, how image follows reality!

Now take a deep breath ...

An excavation of dentists, a meditation of civil servants, a guttation of impressionist painters (good word that), an angostura of redundant chairmen (Joyce Prince), a drone of chairmen, a scowl of creatives, an extension of brand managers (Sandra Deeble), a gasp of aerobics instructors, a delay of British Rail managers (archaic), a persistence of double glazing salesmen, a suspicion of tax inspectors (D Johnson), a rudeness of shop assistants, a scarcity of virgins (the last just an observation, not a competition entry, says Alanis Jonesette), a plunder of financiers (Ray Dite), a block of writers, a luvvy of actors, a pounce of traffic wardens, a pot-pourri of florists, a skew of statisticians (Alan Christie).

A mildew of High Court judges, a Gombeen of Irish politicians (don't understand that, but it comes from Gary Byrnes in Dublin so it's probably witty), a mews of estate agents, a panic of Chancellors (Malcolm Treen), a quibble of insurance companies, a smarm of public relations executives (Chris Sladen), a wrangle of loss-adjusters, a type of writers, a sneer of head waiters, a deflation of Bransons (topical, that), a heard of town criers, a castration of vets (Simon Carse), a spiral of spin doctors (BJ North), a flight of derivatives clerks (Derek Norman), a paunch of publicans, a complexity of computers (Jim French).

We also have a wunch of bankers, which I don't understand but which comes from both Graeme Bell and Mike Allum.

How to choose the winners? I couldn't, so I asked a colleague, part of a grumble of sub-editors, to pick two. They are Sandra Deeble of Stevenage and Malcolm Treen of Camberley, and will both get a bottle of fizz.

Danger signs

ALANIS JONESETTE also wonders about caller identification numbers on the phone if several people could be calling from the same number. Her question is: "How does one differentiate between mother-in-law (to be avoided at all costs) and father-in-law (good old stick)?"

BT should be able solve this with little problem: a picture of a good old stick should appear alongside the number when it's father-in-law calling, and a skull and crossbones when it's mother-in-law.