Ritch Hochstetler  January 24, 2020

Picture yourself in the last meeting you were a part of. Is everyone engaged? Are there only a few people who seem to be dominating the conversation? Is there passion and ownership for the ideas being shared?

The factors most people think of as driving group performance – cohesion, motivation, and satisfaction, are less significant than we thought. According to the latest research, the largest factor in predicting group intelligence is the equality of the conversational turn taking: groups where only a few people dominate the conversation, are less collectively intelligent than those with a more equal distribution of conversational turn taking.

In his book, Social Physics: How Social Networks Can Make us Smarter, Alex Pentland refers to engagement as “the process in which the ongoing network of exchanges between people changes their behavior.” These exchanges become a powerful means of sharing ideas when they are reciprocal, much like the serve and return you observe in a tennis match. 

The research is clear – Engagement requires interaction! And it’s just as clear that we need to clarify what we mean when we say interaction.

According to Pentland’s research, interaction that has the power to change behavior has these two qualities:

  1.  Repetitive communication that creates the social pressure for team members to adopt cooperative behaviors.
  2. Inclusive communication between all members of the team (not just between a leader and members, but between members and with the entire group) that pulls everyone into the mix.

How do you increase interaction on your team? 

The first step is to ask them to talk to each other! The second step is to ask yourself, “How does my communication create space for ALL of my team members to share their gifts, ideas, needs, and want?”



Ritch Hochstetler, President and CEO at ULEAD


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