Dr. Ben Schögler – Co-Inventor of the Skoog

Born into a family of pro wrestlers, trapeze artists and headline acts at the Moulin rouge, Dr Ben Schögler is not your average academic. This eclectic DNA is reflected in his career to date: a musician who decided to study psychology, and who, after a few appearances on the international lecture scene (and a brief stint as a lecturer in the Caribbean), found himself at the cutting edge of research to create a new musical instrument for disabled children.

For many people, the barrier to making music is the instrument itself: you can’t make music if you don’t know how to use the instrument. These barriers can be even more difficult for those with physical and learning difficulties.

An idea began to take shape, that of an intuitive musical instrument, one that everyone can play, which both sounds great, and affords expressive potential.

With funding from NESTA – and support from world luminaries such as Nigel Osborne – he teamed up with partner in crime / co-inventor / co-founder / all round co-person Dr David Skulina. Together they invented the Skoog, a radically simple, all-new musical instrument that gets more people playing music, particularly disabled children.

After a successful spell at the academic inventing table the oddly-surnamed duo set forth into the world of business, or as many call it, the ‘real world’. They have since gone successfully from idea, to prototype, to license deal, to manufactured product, to investment pitch, to investment and they are now making and shipping their creation across the globe. Ladies and gentleman, introducing the Skoog!

What are you working on right now?

Introducing the Skoog to the world, or is it the world to the Skoog, I can never quite be sure.

Making music is good for you! We are here to help more people make music no matter what their ability, age or experience. The earlier we can get kids turned on to music the more amazing musicians we are going to see!

We also like doing cool stuff with technology, altruistic, design led and innovative. So watch this space. There is more to come from Skoogmusic, now where is that SDK…

3 trends that excite you?

Tactile technology, although software is great I love things you can get your hands on. The fact that being into good food and drink is no longer considered pompous or snooty, and most importantly the concept of ‘digital natives’ – I know it sounds lame but it is amazing the climate some kids are growing up in. Immersed in a digital narrative that runs in parallel to their own ‘real’, and in some ways monochromatic by comparison, lives. This is exciting! Get on board and check out what they are up to. The pace of technological change is only going to grow exponentially and I hope will lead to some amazing new tech and scientific paradigm shifts, in the words of Ferris Bueller “Life moves pretty fast, if you don’t stop to look round once in a while you might miss it”.

How do you bring ideas to life?

By sharing them with other people. Don’t be too protective of your ideas, as long as it stays in your head that is all it will ever be, an idea! You will need other people to make it a reality.

I am constantly surprised and delighted by the creative people I am lucky enough to work with and around. David for one, he tolerates my outbursts, and after working out what is nonsense and what is worthwhile actually makes it feasible! Or Chris Ross, art director at Kester & Company, who continues to translate ideas and concepts into beautifully designed objects, artwork and content.

What inspires you?

Loving life, and positive people. Jane and Coco, my partner and my daughter. Music, music, music, and good design. Oh and typography, and, you know what there is so much stuff that inspires me, I think the question is misleading. The important thing is to be open to inspiration, and you can find it anywhere.

What is one mistake you’ve made, and what did you learn from it?

After completing my doctorate I was a fan of using my ‘Dr’ status whenever possible (my Phd is in psychology and music). I would regularly check in to flights and hotels as Dr Schögler. On one flight back to Barbados I checked in as the young and handsome Dr Schögler and settled into my seat basking in my doctorly glow. About half way through the flight a stewardess came up to me:

“Dr Schogler?”
“Yes, I replied” So pleased to have been noticed at last.
“Could you come with me please”
“Ok” So I got up and followed her up to the business class area with a spring in my step. You must picture the scene as it was in my head: Marvin Gaye’s ‘Got to give it up’ was playing, people were smiling, waving at me, I was being upgraded!

She then proceeded to pull back the curtain and reveal a middle aged man in the middle of a heart attack or some related medical emergency.
I was in two minds as to whether I should wing it, I’ve seen ER plenty of times, or should I come clean.
I decided, wisely I think, to inform the stewardess that I wasn’t ‘that kind of Doctor’, ooh the shame.

So, never take yourself too seriously! And don’t use ‘Dr’ to check on to plane unless you know what to do with a defibrillator.

(The man with the emergency was ok by the way, turned out there was a real nurse on board).

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Hire or work with people better than you!

What is one book and one tool  that helps you bring ideas to life?

Conversation, sharing ideas with other people, that old people thing again. Oh and I don’t have any yet but I want some ideapaint, for the office.

Who would you love to see interviewed on IdeaMensch?

Peter Collingridge of Enhanced Editions.

If you don’t enjoy your job what should you do?

Stop doing it! Or stop doing it the way your doing it. I am not saying just walk out of your job, we all need cash and coin. I have worked a variety of jobs from shoveling dung on a pig farm to cognitive testing for drug companies and you have to find the positive elements to your work. Pigs are way cool, and some really interesting people volunteer for drug testing.

How do you start your day?

With roots, rock, rock reggae. Start your day with some music you love, loud and proud. To hell with the neighbors, you have the rest of the day to be serious and say things like ‘discernible margins’ or ‘alternative routes to market’. Put some music on that you love, crank it up and put a smile on your face.


So come and check out the skoog, and see what we are up to at Skoogmusic.

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