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Thursday, January 5, 2017

To Make a Team More Effective, Find Their Commonalities

David DeSteno
Harvard Business Review
December 12, 2016

Here is an excerpt:

When it comes to empathy and compassion, the most powerful tool is a sense of similarity – a belief that people’s interests are joined and, thus, that they’re all on the same team and will benefit from supporting each other. Consider an example from the first World War. British and German troops were fighting a long, bloody battle in the trenches outside of Ypres, Belgium. But on Christmas Eve, the British began to see their foes light candles and sing familiar carols. Soon, these men, who had previously been trying to kill each other, came out to greet one another, share stories and celebrate the holiday together. For a brief period, they re-categorized themselves as members of the same group, in this case defined by religion, and felt a new camaraderie.

You can achieve a similar effect by emphasizing or introducing even less significant similarities. For example, Claremont McKenna’s Piercarlo Valdesolo and I conducted an experiment in which we had participants tap their hands in synch — or not in synch — with another person, who was later unfairly stuck with an onerous assignment. Half of the people who had tapped in unison with their partners offered to help with the task, compared with only 18% of those who were out of synch. The in-synch tappers reported not only feeling more similar to the strangers with whom they’d been paired, but also more compassion for them, and those two measures increased in tandem.

The article is here.