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The Importance of Social Interaction

Many of my clients don’t really know how to design positive employee experiences. Events and experiences designed to create what Edgar Schein calls a Cutural Island is key.

‘To help leaders deal with multi-cultural teams … two things need to happen – leaders have to become much more humble and learn how to seek help, because the subordinates under them will be much more knowledgeable than they, and secondly leaders will have to create cultural islands where people from differently occupational and national cultures can spend suspend some of the rules and talk to each other more directly, for example, about how they view trust, how they view authority, or how they deal with bosses that make mistakes. If leaders can’t create those kinds of cultural islands, they won’t be able to create teams that can actually work.’

Having those spaces where we can interact, away from hierarchies, is key to having a high performing culture. This spaces allows what Ed Schein calls “personization”, where you can get to know and appreciate your teammates as individuals. This is what helps develop high trusting relationships.

Now, in a turbulent world where we have to deal with complexity, we need to be able to observe, think, and react faster than we have done it before. Connecting with each other and providing feedback is easier and feels safer when we do it in an environment that is separate from work. That’s why we, Organizational Development professionals like play or anything that takes teams out of their usual work setting.

An activity that is not related to work, such as preparing a meal, provides a safe environment for us to experiment new behaviours, receive and provide feedback, and connect with each other.

Cooking, playing or telling stories, evokes in our minds the sense of wellbeing and community that is almost lost. Karyn Purvis says that “…it takes approximately 400 repetitions to create a new synapse in the brain… unless we do it with play, in which case it takes between 10 and 20 repetitions. Evidence that human physiology is fine-tuned for learning through play.

In these turbulent times, serious play, cooking/eating and telling stories is key to help develop new skills.