National Australia Bank: Banking on sound’s power to inspire

National Australia Bank’s professional-development initiative, The Academy, harnesses the evocative power of sound and music to prime employees for personal and professional transformation.

Setting the stage

To commemorate its 150th anniversary, National Australia Bank (NAB) launched The Academy, a progressive corporate training initiative designed to support and inspire employees as they strive toward their professional aspirations. Using state-of-the-art technology and an experiential approach to training that includes improvised role playing and collaborative creative projects, and The Academy effectively extends NAB’s promise of “more give, less take” to its own employees.

This progressive mentality is also evident The Academy training spaces, which occupy over 40,000 square feet of NAB’s Docklands headquarters in Melbourne. Specially designed rooms such as Zen, Lodge, and Sketch each have their own unique purpose and a distinctive mood to support the types of training activities conducted there. The goal of these imaginative spaces? Nothing short of facilitating progressive transformation amongst its employees. 

This ambitious spirit led NAB to ask, “How can The Academy use sound and music to challenge employees and inspire them to break out of the corporate mindset and discover new ways to interact, collaborate, and learn?”

Taking the first step: The Academy stairs

The main entrance to The Academy is where the transformation begins for NAB employees. Brand Timbre turned this sculptural, two-story flight of stairs into an interactive tunnel of sound lined with speakers, infrared sensors and body-detecting cameras. As employees travel up and down, the staircase comes alive with three distinct rhythm-based compositions, based on the time of day—morning, noon or evening. As traffic increases and as employees discover they can “trip” a range of sounds, so do the number of activated musical loops and sound effects.

By forcing employees to run this interactive “gauntlet of sound,” NAB encourages them to leave the corporate mind-set behind and transition to a more open, experimental frame of mind—one more conducive to learning and personal development.

Keeping ears and minds open: The River of Words

To keep Academy attendees on their toes in between training sessions, Timbre designed a second acoustic installation, River of Words, a sonic “stream of consciousness” that flows through the NAB’s central atrium, where Academy attendees gather for breaks and lunches.

After reporting employee testimonials about their professional goals and aspirations, timbre used audio more thing technology any series of strategically placed speakers to transform employees voices into a watery “stream” that travels through the atrium. This stream is accompanied by snippets of additional employee dialogue, morphed to sound like the forest creatures of an alien planet, would you surprise passersby as I walk through the space.

Inter-activity and employee contribution or encouraged by the presence of the digital recording device at the screams “headwaters.” Hey simple box with a glowing blue button invites employees to share their thoughts and opinions, which are then incorporated into the sonic experience that surrounds them.

Setting the mood: Tone Bar

To help trainers and facilitators create the ideal atmosphere for their learning activities, Brand Timbre designed a custom ambient music system for The Academy’s conference rooms that delivers four hand-picked playlists via a touchscreen interface. The playlists are divided into three distinct categories—Energy, Calm, and Catalyst—permitting The Academy facilitators to easily select music that best supports their training activities.

The Sound of Change

With two large-scale, interactive installations and a one-of-a-kind overhead music system, Brand Timbre helped NAB deploy sound in an engaging and innovative way to support The Academy’s mission of inspiring its employees and motivating them toward personal and professional development.

As The Academy evolves to meet new demands and accommodate new modes of training, Timbre will repurpose the installed audio infrastructure with content that sets precisely the right tone—and frame of mind—for whatever NAB’s goals are.

In the meantime, NAB employees are enjoying a corporate environment that sounds anything but corporate. And they’re able to approach their professional development courses with the spark of inspiration; a more open and nimble mind; and perhaps an expression of wonder and delight on their faces.

Case Study

Download the NAB case study.