I.4.1 Characteristics of Entangled Organizations

Individuals in teams that are collaborating well, be it spouses, competitive dancing couples, soccer teams, orchestra members, competitive sailing teams, or any other entangled group, are all connected in five ways. Entanglement between any two individuals is characterized by

  1. Synchronization in movements (physical and virtual)
  2. Shared emotions (same response to same stimulus)
  3. Shared language (using similar words to describe the same event)
  4. Shared facial expression (responding with similar facial expressions to the same stimulus)
  5. Shared values (tribes, ethics, morals)

In our research over the last twenty years we have investigated these five ways in hundreds of research projects. Their validity has been demonstrated in many different settings in small teams and large organizations, in non-profits and businesses:

1. Synchronization in movements

People that are entangled will start mirroring each other’s body movements. In interpersonal dialog, they will look each other into the eyes, and start nodding in synch. Groups of people on the dance floor will start to synchronously move their bodies to the beat of the sound, people in the audience of a circus performance will start clapping in synchronicity, and the spectators of a soccer game will start screaming as a chorus to encourage their team. The same behavior will also happen in electronic communication, where entangled people will synchronously send and receive e-mail messages, or change their social network position in synch with each other. 

2. Shared emotions

Entangled people will show the same emotional feedback when reacting to an event. For instance, people in the same cultural space will show the same emotion in response to an external stimulus. Indigenous people in the Amazonas rainforest might be delighted when discovering crickets or maggots as part of a future delicious meal, while city dwellers from New York might experience disgust when exposed to the same animals. Similarly, people with strong ethics might be disgusted when learning about the drug manipulations of Martin Shkreli, who as CEO of Turing pharmaceuticals raised the price of a Daraprim pill from US$13 dollars to US$750. The AIDS patients dependent on Daraprim to keep their Toxoplasmosis under control will be in despair when learning about the price hike, while the shareholders of Turing will be delighted about the windfall profits. There are three differently entangled groups – the ethically conscious, the AIDS patient with Toxoplasmosis, and the amoral investor – showing different emotional reactions to the same event.

3. Shared language

Entangled people will use the same words to describe an event. For instance, the engineering team investigating the Genoa bridge collapse in August 2018 will talk in technical terms about the tendons giving in to external stress, while the journalists focusing on the human tragedies resulting from the drivers killed in the disaster will use compassionate and emphatic language to describe the same event, while the relatives of the people killed in the collapse will be in despair. Similarly, in his letter to shareholders, activist investor Bill Ackmann used enthusiastic language to describe the business model of pharmaceutical company Valeant, which similarly to Turing pharmaceutical bought up other companies manufacturing effective medications, and then jacked up the price while investing very little in research. When investigating this behavior, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission used very different words expressing disgust to describe Valeant’s behavior, while the diabetes patients who suddenly experienced an 800% price increase for Valeant’s recently acquired pill Glumetza were using language expressing pain and fear.

4. Shared facial expression

The emotional response of differently entangled people will be mirrored in their faces. People being entangled and responding in the same way to an external event, for instance seeing a maggot, will thus show similar facial expressions. Or think back to the iconic soccer World Cup semifinal in 2014 where Brazil lost against Germany 7 to 1. The faces of the Brazilian fans inside the Estadio Mineirao were showing growing pain ending in despair, while the faces of the German fans were showing utter delight, mixed with growing compassion for the Brazilians as the German goals were piling up. This means that inside the same physical space there can be different groups of differently entangled people occupying alternative realities. Looking at the face of a person sitting beside a Brazilian soccer fan in the Estadio Mineirao would tell the fan if his neighbor was rooting for “us” – the Brazilian team, or “them” – the German team.

5. Shared values

Entangled people of the same virtual tribe will respond in the same way to an external stimulus. For instance, different groups will react very differently to refugees knocking at their national borders. Ultranationalists will respond with rejection and repulsion, while welcoming people will respond with sympathy and compassion to the refugees. At the same time, research has shown that Ultranationalists (which we term “fatherlanders”) crave the cultural values of tradition and authority with less emphasis on caring and fairness, while people with a more open personality prioritize caring and fairness over tradition and authority.


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