Last week Guy Kawasaki wrote about Ori and Rom Brafman’s new book, Click: The Magic of Instant Connections. As I’ve enjoyed the thoughts and studies in the Brafmans’ previous works (Sway, and The Starfish and the Spider), I thought I’d try to extract some of the principles I took away from reading Click and turn them into a few useful action items.
The essence of Click as it relates to a business setting is that we perform better when we “click” and connect quickly with those we work with. And we click well with others when we are physically close to them, trust and like them, and feel safe and secure as part of a community. That makes intuitive sense, and probably doesn’t come as a big surprise. What the Brafmans do, however, is delve into the science and psychology of the “why” behind the “what.”
Click is full of documented research studies demonstrating the power of clicking. For example, researchers in one study took a representative group of first-year MBAs, asked them to list ten classmates they clicked with most, then divided the entire group into several three-person teams. Unbeknownst to the students, half of the teams were made up entirely of clickers, while the other half wasn’t. The teams were given an innovation exercise: make a 3D abstract model based on a given blueprint, using Tinkertoys, straws, wooden sticks, and macaroni.
You can probably guess the results. What’s most surprising, though, is the magnitude of difference in performance. The click teams successfully constructed 20 percent more models. In a followup exercise, one involving a more analytical activity, the click teams were 70 percent more accurate than the non-click teams.
These outcomes have significant implications for small business, entrepreneurial firms, and big companies alike. The challenge, of course, is how to practically apply the concepts in Click. Here are three solid techniques to consider.
1. Move people closer together. Bell Communications Research conducted a study on collaboration of 500 research scientists all working for the same company but in different locations, some as far apart as 40 miles. Even with constant email, cellphones, and conference calls, the results were revealing: there was a 10 percent collaboration rate among scientists working in the same corridor. In other words, pick a scientist, walk down the hall, and you’d have a 10 percent chance of meeting someone he or she had collaborated with.
The chances, though, of meeting a collaborator in a building 40 miles away was a fraction of a percent. But here’s the interesting thing: the odds of meeting a collaborator on another floor in the same building was the same as those of meeting one in the building 40 miles away. As the Brafmans write: “A few feet make a big difference.”
2. Group by similarity. “It doesn’t really matter whether we share a first name, a birthday, or a home state,” write the Brafmans, “similarity brings out the best in us.” The more we have in common with someone, irrespective of what the nature of those similarities are, the more we click and connect with them. The goal is to create and promote workplace “in-groups.” In other words, clique to click.
One researcher proved the business impact of this by surveying 300 members of Canada’s Purchasing Management Association, asking about their relationship with a supplier representative with whom they had worked for longer than three months. The suppliers the managers most liked, and were committed to, were those that had in common with them the same attitudes about work, and were in a similar place in life as determined by age, marital status, and family situation.
In another interesting study, people donated twice as much money to a cause when the person soliciting donations wore a name tag with the same name as the study participant. When it comes to similarity, the Brafmans write, “quantity trumps quality.”
3. Create safe havens. According to the Brafmans, certain settings, surroundings, and situations can help foster clicking. “Overcoming challenges together can help to stimulate or encourage clicking, as can being part of a shared, defined community.”
I know this to be true. When I was engaged with Toyota a few years ago, I learned the importance of creating an obeya room. Obeya in Japanese simply means “big room.” An obeya room was the nerve center for any Toyota team project—part war room, part command central, part safe haven where constructive critique, questions and comments can be posted without fear of repercussion. During the 1990s, then-President Fujio Cho became concerned with the decline in workplace collaboration due to the rise of e-mail and videoconferencing. In other words, people weren’t clicking as much as he wanted them to. Cho required teams to once again work face to face in obeya, as it provided a designated forum for surfacing and solving problems.
There has been deep data available for at least a decade that people engage more fully when they work with friends. The Gallup Organization's Q12 workplace engagement survey includes a question that functions as proxy for trust: “I have a best friend at work.” What the Brafmans do in Click, though, is conduct a deep dive into that single important issue.
“We sometimes think of clicking as an expansion of a friendship, that that connection is simply a strong friendship,” says Ori. “But clicking is much more than that. We found that relationships that emanated from a click were defined by more passion, creativity, and productivity. It goes back to that magic that we feel when we first meet that person. That sensation, that connection, stays with us throughout the relationship and brings out the best in us.”
Matthew E. May is a design and innovation strategist, and the author of In Pursuit of Elegance: Why the Best Ideas Have Something Missing. You can follow him on Twitter here.