Why do certain groups add up to the greater sum of their parts, while others add up to be less?  Several years ago, Peter Skillman held a competition to find out why.  The exercise included a number of teams some MBAs and some kindergartners.  The task was to construct the highest physical structure with the following:

  • twenty pieces of uncooked spaghetti
  • one yard of transparent tape
  • one yard of string
  • one marshmallow

The MBAs strategized and talked thoughtfully, and the kindergartners' dove right in.  Guess who won the teaming contest? The 5-year-olds.  Why?  The MBAs spent their time figuring out where they fit, who's in charge, and if it was ok to challenge the rules.  The kindergartners were standing shoulder to shoulder trying a bunch of stuff together.  The difference was not in brain power, but in the interaction and how they function as an entity.  When we experiment, take risks, offer help and are completely unconcerned with our status, we get better outcomes.  

While we can't reverse the clock and become kindergartners again, are there ways that we can create an environment that encourages innovation and better teamwork?

The answer has recently been uncovered by a group of neuroscientists.  Our amygdala has some amazing functions including, emotion, survival, and memory.  When this tiny part of our brain receives 'belonging' signals to answer the questions:   Are we connected?  Do we share a future? Are we safe? The person feels connected, safe, cared for and optimistic about their future.  When experiencing a highly personalized process involving human connection, our willingness to stay and endure the challenge in front of us, ultimately giving our whole selves to building a future, this is because our amygdala is satisfied that there's no reason to fight or run.   Instead, we work together, powerfully.