III.4.2 Six Steps to Become an Entangled Team Member

Entanglement and groupflow have profound consequences for building high-performing teams with happy members. They influence team member selection, the team work process, and the interaction among team members. Based on hundreds of projects done over the last twenty years with organizations ranging from fortune 500 high-tech and financial firms to non-profit foundations, charities, and open-source communities, I have come up with six principles for the individual, and three principles for the organization. 

This section describes the six steps you, as an individual, can take to become a better and happier member of a better team.

1. Intrinsic aligned motivation: You need to find meaning in the teamwork you do. Only if the team members share the same vision and goals will they work together well. Ideally, they work in the team not because they are paid to do it, but because they deeply care for the task they are trying to accomplish. However, sharing the same vision, for instance #makingAmericaGreatAgain, can be reached by very different means. Although they share the same goal, members of the Trump tribe see a totally different way for #makingAmericaGreatAgain than members of the Bernie Sanders tribe. Thus, team members should all share similar values and morals – be members of the same tribe. For instance, combining somebody who craves power and authority with benevolent universalists will cause pain for both. Better if both either strive for self-enhancement or for self-transcendence. For instance, combining “up or out” McKinsey consultants and “value generating” Goldman Sachs bankers with social workers passionate about reducing infant mortality and Amnesty International coordinators caring about asylum seekers will not work well. Similarly, authority-seeking team members will not collaborate well with others who prioritize fairness and caring over in-group loyalty and tradition – just look at “red state” America and “blue state” America living side-by-side in different alternative realities. When creating a new COIN in my own work, I make it a point not to mention compensation in the beginning, as I never want to recruit team members that are just in it for the money.  Rather I found that the best work is done by volunteers, who are passionate about the task and don’t care about making as much money as possible. If the work is done well, rewards will come by itself.

2. Diversity – mediated by homophily: Our and research by others has shown that team members with diverse backgrounds will lead to better and more creative results, as team members will complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses. However, there can also be too much of a good thing, a deeply religious factory worker from the mid-west might not speak the same language as an ivy league educated lawyer. The same might be true for the Southern Korean waiter in the same team with a South African rugby player. While some diversity in personality characteristics between team members has been shown to be good, for instance having extroverts and introverts in the same team, it is preferable to mediate diversity with shared background, for instance having two US Midwest factory workers in the same team, with one having a South African friend, and the other having a South Korean friend. The two factory workers will speak the same US Midwest English, but will bring diverse experiences from the interaction with their friends from different cultures.

3. Turn taking – one bee queen alone dies: In our research we found that taking turns in leadership is essential for the success of creative teams. A leader who is not able to delegate a task to whoever is best qualified to do it will burn out very quickly. Good leaders are the best in their team, great leaders recruit others to their team who are better than them. Great leaders also empower more junior team members and give them recognition and responsibility. Figure 75 shows the meeting balancer app which is part of the Social Compass and the Happimeter smartphone app. It illustrates the turn taking among participants in our team meeting, showing the speaking activity of team members in two subsequent meetings. In the first meeting on November 5, 2020 at left I am dominating the discussion, as shown by the large square at right, and the red ball near me showing that I hijacked most meeting time. This is also shown in my speaking activity, as shown in the middle-left picture. The second meeting on November 12, 2020, at right in Figure 75, shows the positive effect of virtual mirroring on more efficient turn taking. Now all members take even turns, my speaking activity is now very low, and the other team members talk much more.  This is also shown in the picture at the very right, showing that my speaking activity is now very low, while the others contribute much more.

Figure 75. Turn taking in meetings. Mirroring speaking time and turns leads to more even distribution of speaking time.

4. Entangling: In our research we found that the right type of entanglement is essential for successful teamwork. There can also be too much of a good thing. A huge organization which is too much entangled will be stifling and choking off all creativity. It is better to have smaller highly entangled teams – COINs – connected by weaker organizational entanglement. In a closely-knit team, members not just collaborate on the task of the team, but also care, respect and know about each other as human beings. This means being kind to each other, and talking about more than work when being together, and knowing about the likes and dislikes of the other team members. It also means being fair, being responsive, and giving credit to others’ accomplishments.

5. Virtual mirror: A team member also needs to be willing to look into the virtual mirror and accept inconvenient truths. In our research, we found that just the willingness to accept a virtual mirror was a predictor of future success. This means accepting constructive criticism from others, and being willing to improve one’s own ways of doing things if there is a better way of doing them, instead of sticking to the old ways just because of tradition and because “it has always been like that”.

6. Emotions: Team members should become aware of their own emotions. This is non-trivial, while we think we know our emotions, the truth is that more often than not we are poor judges of our emotions, and the emotions of others. Using facial emotion recognition in zoom meetings, we have found that becoming aware of one’s own emotions will actually make the meetings more productive for all participants. Additionally, we should also be aware that aspiring to a state of constant team happiness is not good for the team to reach the flow state and deliver superior results. As has been said before many times in this book: “no pain, no gain”. Therefore, the team and its members need to be prepared to live in an emotional roller coaster where joy and happiness take turns with fear, anger, sadness, disgust, and surprise. There will be times of joy and happiness, but there will also be times of stress. Using a tool such as the Social Compass will show the individual their emotions at any point in time, and support them getting into flow by alerting them of unnecessary negative emotions and stress, and help them to be better collaborators.


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