Cooperation is More than Playing Nice

Cooperation is More than Playing Nice


Webster defines cooperation as “the actions of someone who is being helpful by doing what is wanted or asked for.”

According to the latest research on teams, however, there is a lot more to cooperation than playing nice. For cooperation to infuse a team with greater effectiveness, every team member must be pushed, even pressured, through their “social network”, to take ownership in where the team is heading.

This ownership is created by involving everyone in goal setting and work activities. It’s taken to another level when everyone shares the credit for team accomplishments. It’s sustained when teams put in the work to reach sufficient consensus on decisions so that everyone is willing to embrace “the plan.”

The research of Alex Pentland, the author of Social Physics: How Social Networks Can Make us Smarter, frames cooperation as “shared habits that result in productive teamwork.” These “habits of action” are ingrained responses built on ideas and influences spread through a team’s social network…and they are powerful!

When people work together, doing the same thing in synchrony with others – rowing, dancing, working to reach a goal or accomplish a mission, their bodies release endorphins (natural opiates) that give a pleasant high (joy) as a reward for working together. When team members experience this natural high, it’s a sign that cooperation is happening on a deeper level.

So, how do you build more cooperation on your team? Step one is to radically shift your focus from trying to motivate or change performance of individual team members in favor of incentivizing and contantly encouraging members to influence one another. This is like hotwiring the power of the teams social network to jumpstart changes in attitudes and behaviors.

A question to ask yourself is, “What would it look like to shift from trying to change individuals, to focusing on spreading positive ideas and being a positive influence?”

Ritch Hochstetler, President and CEO at ULEAD


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