III.2 Insight: Virtual Mirroring
“If a man has lost a leg or an eye, he knows he has lost a leg or an eye; but if he has lost a self—himself—he cannot know it, because he is no longer there to know it.” - Oliver Sacks
Just like the human body shivers when it has a fever, an organization frequently has a vague feeling that something is amiss, but is unable to pinpoint what is wrong. Similar to a thermometer measuring the health of the body, we propose a novel approach to assess and improve individual and organizational mental health by calculating a series of communication metrics between individuals in the organization. Offering individuals the opportunity to reflect on their own communication behavior has the potential to change those behaviors and ultimately improve their happiness and the quality of their relationships with others. Just like mirror neurons put the self and the other back together and map the actions of the other into the self, our virtual mirroring process is grounded on the idea that self-awareness requires socialization and continuous dialog about the impact that our words and behaviors have on others.
Showing the impact of your actions can really change your behavior! In a fascinating research project in California half of 1332 students in an ethics class read and discussed a paper and watched a video about the suffering of animals slaughtered for human consumption. The other half of the students read and discussed a paper about charitable giving. Unbeknownst to the students, after their ethics class, their purchasing behavior at the campus cafeteria was monitored for the duration of a month. The students discussing meat consumption reduced their meat consumption by seven percent. This effect occurred not just right after the class, but remained to the end of the observation period. This experiment shows that showing somebody the effects of their own behavior clearly impacts their future behavior. In our use of virtual mirroring, we are using the same effect to improve communication behavior, groupflow, and happiness. In dozens of projects, we have shown that individuals and teams change their communication behavior, if the way how they communicate and the impact of their behavior is shown to them. If people know what communication behavior makes them more collaborative, and thus successful, they will change their behavior for the better.