What are good group dynamics?

Last Updated on February 7, 2022 by justin

Alex Pentland holds a PhD in Psychology and Technology from MIT. Together with their research group, they investigate which human signals are the basis for effective dynamics in groups.

To help them, they have created so-called Rhythm badges. A high-tech tool no bigger than a post-it note. It measures communication and interaction patterns, e.g. energy level and turn-taking. Then it sends data directly to your smartphone where you can see how effective the “dynamics” are in real time.

If the ball in the middle is green, it is an effective dynamic at the meeting (see picture above). A lesser dynamic means e.g. that a person takes over the discussion completely. If this happens, the middle ball will be pulled towards the person running a one-man show. If the energy level goes down in the team, the middle ball will fade.

What are positive dynamics?

Good dynamics in groups are created and consolidated through unconscious or conscious signals – which is often referred to as cues of belonging. These signals have the ability to make you and your team switch to a state of psychological security. Then you feel allowed and dare to express yourself. Then you can release fear and worry that what you say or do will negatively affect your self-image or status. Research shows that the expression of positive cues is linked to higher collective intelligence in groups. As well as increased trust and commitment. And in turn – better overall performance.

Security in the team

The function of these signals can be linked to man’s ancient fight and flight system. Which for thousands of years has been activated when e.g. rival groups or other possible threats to our security have emerged. It prepares us physically and mentally to either fight or run away to regain our security. In our modern society, we are not as dependent on this system. Nevertheless, we are still very sensitive to such security signals. When we feel insecure, it not only affects our body (eg elevated heart rate) but also has cognitive and emotional consequences. For example, it has a negative impact on both our perception, our memory and our mood. Therefore, it is not so strange that we become less efficient when we feel insecure.

Cues of belonging:

  • Try to exaggerate eye contact
  • Show that you want to be in the context you are in with the help of inviting body language.
  • Create short, energetic interactions where everyone gets to speak.
  • Always be inclusive, invite the one who may not be so easy to “get into” the meeting.
  • Cancel very rarely (this does not apply in creative sessions)
  • Listen intensely and actively
  • Laugh a lot, nothing creates as much security as laughing together. 
  • Give small courtesy gestures, many thanks and confirmation of effort.

Right now, Rhythm badges are mostly used for research. In the near future, it will probably be available to companies and organizations that want to promote positive dynamics in teams. Until then, we must try to signal the cues of belonging in meetings, workshops and informal contexts at work – to create security and improve our collective performance.

Source: Rhythm MIT

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