In today’s increasingly complex and interconnected world, effective team collaboration is essential for success. From simple tasks like refilling the office water filter to a complex brainstorming session, collaboration and communication is everything.
But what does it take to create and sustain high-performing teams? Why do some companies fail to build teams that last while others seem to be born with it? Let us try and explore what makes a team collaborate better and how understanding brain science can contribute to it.
What Does Science Tell Us?
Neuroscience is beginning to offer new insights into the factors that contribute to effective team collaboration. By understanding how the brain works, we can better understand how to create teams that are productive, creative, and resilient.
There is a growing body of data that supports the benefits of effective team collaboration. A study by the McKinsey Global Institute found that companies with highly collaborative cultures are 2.5 times more likely to be top performers in their industries. This relates to the brain because:
- The brain is wired for social connection. When we work with others, our brains release oxytocin, a hormone that is associated with bonding and trust. This helps us to feel connected to our teammates and more likely to collaborate with them.
- The brain learns through experience. The more we collaborate with others, the better we get at it. This is because our brains are constantly learning and adapting. When we have positive experiences collaborating with others, our brains create new neural pathways that make it easier for us to do so in the future.
- The brain is more creative when we are relaxed and open to new ideas. When we feel stressed or threatened, our brains go into “fight or flight” mode. This can make it difficult to think creatively and collaborate effectively. It is important to create a team environment that is relaxed and supportive, where team members feel safe to share their ideas.
Let’s study more about the brain and how it works to make teams work better.
The Brain’s Reward System
One of the key factors that drive effective team collaboration is the brain’s reward system. When we work together with others towards a common goal, our brains release dopamine, a neurotransmitter that is associated with pleasure and motivation.
Dopamine helps us to focus on the task at hand, and it also motivates us to keep working towards our goals. When we experience a sense of accomplishment, our brains release even more dopamine, which reinforces our behaviour and makes us more likely to collaborate with others in the future.
“I am not sure about the science behind the brain, but I agree with this statement wholeheartedly. I like working only with people my age at work as we appreciate each other when we achieve something. I have noticed that people at my office who are of the older generation don’t like appreciating or being appreciated. It burns me out if I am not patted on the back when I reach a milestone. Call it a toxic trait, but it helps me get the work done.” said a web developer from north-east India.
The Importance of Trust
Another key factor that contributes to effective team collaboration is trust. When we trust our teammates, we are more likely to share our ideas and be open to their feedback. We are also more likely to be willing to help each other out, even when it is not in our own best interest.
A study by the Harvard Business Review found that teams that collaborate effectively are more likely to meet their goals, innovate, and solve problems. This collaborative mindset is born out of trust and the ability to be vulnerable with those around you.
Trust is built over time through consistent positive interactions. When we make an effort to get to know our teammates, we learn more about their strengths and weaknesses. We also learn more about their values and goals. This helps us to build rapport and trust, which is essential for effective teamwork.
“My manager takes the time and effort to get to know the names of newcomers. He takes a moment no matter how busy his day is to visit them at their desks. He just has a casual chat with them, gets to know them, and assigns some tasks for the day. It is a simple gesture but means the world to newcomers. They immediately want to speak to him again and get his appreciation. I know this because I felt the same on my first day at work,” said a sales executive from a reputed supply chain management firm in India.
The Role of Diversity
Diversity is another important factor that contributes to effective team collaboration. When teams are made up of people from different backgrounds, with different experiences and perspectives, they are better able to solve problems and come up with innovative solutions.
This is because the diversity of thought leads to a diversity of ideas. When people from different backgrounds share their ideas, it sparks new thinking and helps the team to see problems from different perspectives. This can lead to better decision-making and more effective problem-solving.
How to Improve Team Dynamics
There are several things that leaders can do to improve team dynamics and create a more collaborative work environment. Some of these things include:
Encourage open communication and feedback
Create a culture where team members feel comfortable sharing their ideas and feedback, even if they are different from the majority. This gives them a sense of team spirit and encourages communication. The brain won’t shut down due to a fear of judgment or embarrassment for sharing crazy ideas with the team.
Set clear goals and expectations
Make sure that everyone on the team knows what they are working towards and what is expected of them. The brain always works better when it knows what it has to do. It thrives and thinks better when it has a direction and knows how to reach it.
Foster trust and respect
Take the time to get to know your team members and build relationships based on trust. It is good if the whole team respects and trusts each other irrespective of age and gender. It is important to have teams that share ideas and feedback with a mindset to grow and respect each other.
When the team achieves a goal, take the time to celebrate their success. Let the whole team celebrate when one person achieves something. But don’t punish the entire team due to someone’s failure. Instead, ask the team to share their mistakes and teach each other how to grow from them. This will help to boost morale and motivation.
By following these tips, leaders can create a more collaborative work environment where team members feel valued and respected. This can lead to increased productivity, creativity, and innovation.
Collaboration is essential for success in today’s competitive business environment. We also know how the brain is wired and how it helps teams thrive.
By understanding the neuroscience of effective team collaboration, leaders can create teams that are more productive, creative, and resilient. It is the need of the hour in today’s corporate world, as all businesses think with their minds but not their hearts. Speak to us today to understand how you can build high-performing teams for greater success in your organisation.