Want to build a stronger, more forward-thinking, team? Research from Harvard University's Department of Psychology and Center for Brain Science says all you have to do is imagine it.

Just one minute of positive daydreaming about a possible interaction between team members can have a tremendous and long-lasting impact. Whether you or each member of your team regularly spends a small amount of time imagining positive encounters, doing so can lead to more social energy, openness to creative possibilities, and an increase in collaboration.

In a 2013 research paper published on the topic, researchers looked to the benefits of imagined interactions between teams members and found that it led to:

  • Increased willingness to collaborate
  • Reduced anxiety
  • More empathetic perspectives
  • Increased likelihood of future positive interactions
  • Improved work initiative-focused memory

Imagining positive interactions caused a psychological shift, a literal network of neurons altering themselves subtly enough where the benefits of the imagined encounter led to more realistic action.

Like athletes who imagine themselves scoring before a game or interviewees who imagine nailing the interview, imagining a positive scenario such as a collaborative conversation with a peer is enough to hint to your brain that it's possible in the real world.

"To imagine is everything, to know is nothing at all." -- Anatole France

To get the most from imagined interactions there are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. Be specific about the time and place of the interaction. Is it early morning or end of the day when you're feeling exhausted? Is it at your desk, in a break-room, or in the office parking lot?
  2. Imagine only a positive outcome. What will leave you and the person you're imagining interacting with feeling benefited by the interaction?
  3. Do it one to five minutes a day. The more imagined interactions you can have, the more likely they are to occur in the real world, research shows. "Imagining makes it so."