The Strange Pull of Synchronicity
I still recollect that first meeting perfectly: a room filled with over a hundred well-dressed business owners, executives, and a few retirees belting out,
“Old MacDonald had a farm, E – I – E – I – O,
And on that farm he had a…”
Why was this group of otherwise sane executives oinking, quacking and singing together? This ritual of sometimes-strange singing synchronicity is a long-standing tradition at this and many other Rotary clubs. In fact, whether pulling you into the Chicken Dance at a wedding or a rowdy version of your college fight song at the big game, the tug of synchronicity is hard to resist.
And, Mind Matters points out, it’s only natural. More than birds and fish benefit from synchronicity. Whether in the bush or the ghetto, any adversary would rather face an individual than a coordinated group. And we are so clued in to coordinating with others that our brains actually have special parts, mirror neurons, that, as we watch, re-enact others’ experiences in our own brains. So it’s natural, but how big might the benefit be?
This is what Stanford researchers wondered about, and found. For those of us who work in teams to accomplish mutual goals, the benefits of coordinated group behavior can actually help us more effectively accomplish our goals. For example, comparing students who marched around campus together singing songs to control groups who did not, they found in later games and competitions that the synchronized students were more cooperative, more willing to sacrifice their own goals for the group’s, and felt more connected with and trusting of each other.
Getting back to those Old MacDonald pals, their cooperation in putting together tens of thousands of dollars each and every year for schools, community non-profits, scholarships, international clean water programs and hundreds of millions worldwide in an effort to end polio, is pretty amazing indeed. So the next time you’re searching for ways to build your organization’s connectedness, consider a fun round of synchronized activity to build on that sense of unity and cooperation. Even if it’s not a round of Old MacDonald, you may be surprised at the results.