Teamwork or Togetherness: Magic words?

An article that I found that has an interesting perspective… not sure I agree, but it will make you think!  MHS

“Abracadabra.” “Alakazam.” “Hocus pocus.” “Ajji Majji la Tarajji.” “Jantar Mantar Jadu Mantar.” “Mecca lecca hi, mecca hiney ho.”

For millennia, people have looked for or tried to use a magic word to make the things they want come to fruition. It’s something almost instinctual, ingrained in the human condition. The earliest known written magical incantations come from ancient Mesopotamia, in Uruk, dated between the 5th and 4th centuries BC.

Around the same time, ancient Egyptians also employed magical incantations. Most people would consider the idea of using a magic word archaic, pointless, or reserved for performing magicians. But research by Priyanka Carr and Greg Walton of Stanford University has found there actually is one powerful, scientifically viable word that, by merely uttering it, will increase productivity.

But first, before it’s revealed, some back story.

If the desire for magic spells is ingrained in humans’ collective DNA, even more so is the need for connectivity. People are extremely social creatures, and have been hardwired from the beginning to want to work together. In fact, “our brains are so attuned to our relationships with other people that they quite literally treat social successes and failures like physical pleasures and pains.” Founder of the NeuroLeadership Institute, David Rock, has identified relatedness—trust, connection, belonging, etc.—as one of the primary categories of social pleasures and pains. He found that employees’ engagement and performance diminish when they face deterrents to relatedness. Conversely, the feeling of working together has proven to predict greater employee motivation, specifically intrinsic motivation.

The problem is, teamwork is just an illusion. Very few of us actually work in teams. Sure, we may have team goals, team meetings, and team performance reviews, but the actual work that we do is usually as an individual. For example, right now I am typing alone these words in my office, with none of my teammates around. I did the research for this article by myself. Yes, I’m writing for the good of the team (and, of course, your edification), but overall I am working alone. While the end goal is ultimately for the good of the team (or department, organization, etc.), the vast majority of the work we do on a daily basis is done solo.

So, how does one harness and call forth with a single magic word the power of this great potential source of productivity? With a single word: “together.”

Using the word “together” gives employees the sense of teamwork needed to be as productive as if they were actually working in a team. In the research done by Carr and Walton, test subjects met in small groups, and then separated to work on different puzzles independently. “People in the psychologically together category were told that they would be working on their task ‘together,’ even though they would be in separate rooms, and would either write or receive a tip from a team member to help them solve the puzzle later on. In the psychologically alone category, there was no mention of being ‘together,’ and the tip they would write or receive would come from the researchers. All the participants were in fact working alone on the puzzles. The only real difference was the feeling that being told they were working ‘together’ might create.”

What they found was that those who worked in the psychologically together group worked 48 percent longer, correctly solved more problems, and recalled more of what they had seen, reporting less fatigue and more intrinsic interest in the project. Overall, those who thought they were together increased productivity.

Promoting a sense of togetherness will increase productivity amongst employees. Effective leaders and managers would do well to add “together” to their everyday vocabulary. Uttering this magic word frequently conjures the prompt that employees—even when working independently—are not alone, motivating everyone to be marvelously more productive.