Can moving a large, heavy object improve the performance of a management team? Yes, says Jane McGonigal in her recent book "Superbetter: A Revolutionary Approach to Getting Stronger, Happier, Braver and More Resilient--Powered by the Science of Games".
McGonigal, a game designer by trade, became curious about the power of games after she gamified her recovery from a concussion. She then spent two years studying the impact of games on our brains, bodies, teams, and businesses.
I've been using a simple team-based exercise that simulates self-organization for several years in almost every event I run. The groups I work with operate noticeably better after playing the game.
I've long thought using games in group management was fun and educational, but McGonigal gave me a new appreciation for the practice and explained some of the science behind why it works.
There are many studies confirming that physically synchronizing with others helps them become our allies. As McGonigal says:
Psychologists have recently discovered, all four types of synchronization-- facial expression, heart rate, respiration, and neural activity-- are strongly correlated with increased empathy and social bonding. The more we sync up with someone, the more we like them--and the more likely we are to help them in the future.
In other words teams that are physically synched are stronger teams. Here are three simple ways to sync with co-workers:
Play a Game
Playing a game together causes our brains and bodies to sync with others. We make similar facial expressions and are focused on the same thing.
Suggestion: before your next meeting hand out iPads and get everyone to play together for 10 minutes. McGonigal recommends the video game Hedgewars because it is easy and fun. She says you can get the effect whether you play the game collaboratively or competitively.
Take a Walk
Even two minutes of walking in step with someone can measurably improve empathy.
Suggestion: if you're meeting one-on-one try taking a walk together. You can even pay attention to your partner's stride and attempt to match it--but try not to creep them out by matching it too consistently.
Move a Table
One way to sync is to take on a challenge together. One team who worked with McGonigal now moves their heavy table out of then back into their conference room whenever things get heated. They say it adds levity, and the syncing helps them reach a solution faster than they would have otherwise.
Simply taking note when you're physically syncing with someone--or when they are with you--reaps many benefits. Paying attention to how we relate non-verbally can be incredibly rewarding and enlightening. Good luck and share your stories of syncing below!