Daniel Coyle

The Culture Code

The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups





How signals of connection generate bonds of belonging?
  • Belonging cues – message of belonging clues: We are connected to each other. We rely on each other, we are a community. I’m safe, I can trust you, I can rely on you.
  • Shared meaning – message: We have a future together. We are going in the same direction. We have a common goal. We want to accomplish the same thing. We are the same, we experience the world in the same way.
    • Focus on similarities, establish common purpose, values, mission. Remind people of the reason why every one of them came there in the first place.
    • Establish physical proximity.


How mutual, interpersonal risk-taking, and being open and vulnerable to each other build trust?
  • “Exchanges of vulnerability, which we naturally tend to avoid, are the pathway through which trusting cooperation is built.”
  • “Vulnerability doesn’t come after trust—it precedes it. Leaping into the unknown, when done alongside others, causes the solid ground of trust to materialize beneath our feet.”
  • “(…) most of us instinctively see vulnerability as a condition to be hidden. But science shows that when it comes to creating cooperation, vulnerability is not a risk but a psychological requirement.”


How narratives and stories create shared goals and values?
  • Create the high-purpose environment by linking the “present effort to a meaningful future” —> What’s this all for? What are we working toward?
  • A common purpose can align many people toward a common goal and enables them to act like one.
  • “This is the way high-purpose environments work. They are about sending not so much one big signal as a handful of steady, ultra-clear signals that are aligned with a shared goal. They are less about being inspiring than about being consistent. They are found not within big speeches so much as within everyday moments when people can sense the message: This is why we work; this is what we are aiming for.”
  • Create purpose by:
    • Vision: connecting the dots between the present and the future state. “A (where we are) to B (where we want to be)”
    • Create priorities (like write a value statement)
    • Two categories of group skills: skills of proficiency and skills of creativity
    • Name keystone behaviours and use “heuristics” to emphasize them -> catchphrases, actionable rules of thumb about specific if/then scenarios


  • CULTURE: from the Latin cultus, which means care.
  • “Culture is a set of living relationships working toward a shared goal. It’s not something you are. It’s something you do.”
  • “When you ask people inside highly successful groups to describe their relationship with one another, they all tend to choose the same word. This word is not friends or team or tribe or any other equally plausible term. The word they use is family.” —> family-esque identifiers: Pixar -> Pixarians; Google -> Googlers; Zappos -> Zapponians; KIPP -> KIPPsters
  • “One misconception about highly successful cultures is that they are happy, lighthearted places. This is mostly not the case. They are energized and engaged, but at their core their members are oriented less around achieving happiness than around solving hard problems together.”
  • Belonging cues are behaviors that create safe connections in groups. They include, among others, proximity, eye contact, energy, mimicry, turn-taking, attention, body language, vocal pitch, consistency of emphasis, and whether everyone talks to everyone else in the group.
  • These functions are ancient, unconscious, and automatic.
  • “Are we safe here? What’s our future with these people? Are there dangers lurking?”
  • The final message: “You are safe here. They seek to notify our ever-vigilant brains that they can stop worrying about dangers and shift into connection mode, a condition called psychological safety.”
  • Our brain is obsessed with searching for triggers of danger. -> “belonging is easy to destroy and hard to build” -> “one or two signals are not enough. We are built to require lots of signaling, over and over”
  • Belonging cues need to be constantly repeated: “(…) you can’t just give a cue once. (…) It’s a narrative—you have to keep it going. It’s not unlike a romantic relationship. How often do you tell your partner that you love them? It may be true, but it’s still important to let them know, over and over.” – Dr. Gregory Walton (Stanford University)
  • Belonging cues possess three basic qualities:
    1.  Energy: They invest in the exchange that is occurring
    2. Individualization: They treat the person as unique and valued
    3. Future orientation: They signal the relationship will continue
  • Questions of belonging
    Are we connected?
    Do we share a future?
    Are we safe here?
  • Close physical proximity, often in circles
  • Profuse amounts of eye contact
  • Physical touch (handshakes, fist bumps, hugs)
  • Lots of short, energetic exchanges (no long speeches)
  • High levels of mixing; everyone talks to everyone
  • Few interruptions
  • Lots of questions
  • Intensive, active listening
  • Humour, laughter
  • Small, attentive courtesies (thank-yous, opening doors, etc.)
  • Vulnerability: A shared exchange of openness. The most basic building block of cooperation and trust.
Dr. Jeff Polzer, professor of organizational behavior at Harvard:
  • “People tend to think of vulnerability in a touchy-feely way, but that’s not what’s happening. It’s about sending a really clear signal that you have weaknesses, that you could use help. And if that behavior becomes a model for others, then you can set the insecurities aside and get to work, start to trust each other and help each other. If you never have that vulnerable moment, on the other hand, then people will try to cover up their weaknesses, and every little microtask becomes a place where insecurities manifest themselves.”
  • “The second person is the key. Do they pick it up and reveal their own weaknesses, or do they cover up and pretend they don’t have any? It makes a huge difference in the outcome.”
  • “You can actually see the people relax and connect and start to trust. The group picks up the idea and says, ‘Okay, this is the mode we’re going to be in,’ and it starts behaving along those lines, according to the norm that it’s okay to admit weakness and help each other.”
  • 5 steps of vulnerability loop:
  1. Person A sends a signal of vulnerability.
  2. Person B detects this signal.
  3. Person B responds by signaling their own vulnerability.
  4. Person A detects this signal.
  5. A norm is established; closeness and trust increase.


Gabriele Oettingen
  • Mental Contrasting: connecting the dots between present and future states.“Envision a reachable goal, and envision the obstacles.”
  • “Oettingen discovered, this method works, triggering significant changes in behavior and motivation.”
  • “Mental contrasting has also been shown to improve the ability to interact positively with strangers, negotiate deals, speak in public, manage time, improve communication, and perform a range of other skills.”
  • “The conjoint elaboration of the future and the present reality makes both simultaneously accessible and links them together in the sense that the reality stands in the way of realizing the desired future.”   Gabriele Oettingen

2 steps of mental contrasting:

  1. Think about a realistic goal that you would like to achieve. Imagine that you already achieved it, imagine a future where it has already become a reality.
  2. Think about the barriers between you and your goal. Try to imagine it as accurately and concretely as possible.

Further reading:

  • 📖 Rethinking Positive Thinking: Inside the New Science of Motivation
“a mindset of seeking simple ways to serve the group”
  • “It was the only time I’ve ever seen a billionaire move furniture” a friend jokes about Tony Hsieh, founder of Zappos
  • About John Wooden legendary head coach of UCLA’s men’s basketball team -> “Here was a man who had already won three national championships, bending down and picking up scraps from the locker room floor.”
  • About Ray Kroc, the founder of McDonald’s -> “Every night you’d see him coming down the street, walking close to the gutter, picking up every McDonald’s wrapper and cup along the way, (…) I saw Ray spend one Saturday morning with a toothbrush cleaning out holes in the mop wringer.”
  • “Coach Billy Donovan of the University of Florida (…) cleaned up Gatorade that had spilled on the floor.”
  • Mahatma Gandhi was cleaning toilets.


Build a tower!
  • designer and engineer Peter Skillman
  • 4 teams: business graduates, CEOs, lawyers, kindergarteners
  • Build the tallest tower using: spaghetti, tape, string, and marshmallow
  • Result:
    • Kindergardeners: 27 inches tall
    • CEOs: 22 inches
    • Lawyers: 15 inches
    • Business school students: less than 10 inches tall


  • Individual skills didn’t matter, but the interaction between people.
  • Business school students, lawyers, and CEOs are engaged in “status management” instead of just focusing on the task. “Who is in charge? Is it okay to criticize someone’s idea? What are the rules here?  (…)They spend so much time managing status that they fail to grasp the essence of the problem.”
  • “The actions of the kindergartners appear disorganized on the surface. But when you view them as a single entity, their behavior is efficient and effective. They are not competing for status.”
“understanding the inner workings of group chemistry”
  • MIT Human Dynamics Lab – Alex (Sandy) Pentland – computer science professor – using “sociometers” to reveal hidden patterns of behavior
  • They studied hundreds of groups in post-op wards, call centers, banks, salary negotiations, and business pitch sessions.
  • “It’s possible to predict performance by ignoring all the informational content in the exchange and focusing on a handful of belonging cues.”
  • “the sociometers—which tracked only the cues exchanged by presenter and audience and ignored all the informational content—predicted the rankings with nearly perfect accuracy”
  • “content of the pitch didn’t matter as much as the set of cues with which the pitch was delivered and received”
  • “These factors ignore every individual skill and attribute we associate with high-performing groups, and replace them with behaviors we would normally consider so primitive as to be trivial. And yet when it comes to predicting team performance, Pentland and his colleagues have calculated nothing is more powerful.”


Overall Pentland’s studies show that team performance is driven by five measurable factors:

  1. Everyone on the team talks and listens in roughly equal measure, keeping contributions short and sweet.
  2. Members face one another, and their conversations and gestures are energetic.
  3. Members connect directly with one another—not just with the team leader.
  4. Members carry on back-channel or side conversations within the team.
  5. Members periodically break, go exploring outside the team, and bring information back.
The ancestor effect
Peter Fischer
  • Thinking about your own ancestors makes you feel connected to a community, part of a group bigger than yourself.
  • When you feel connected you feel safe and your unconscious part of the brain stops looking for signs of danger. In technical terms when you sense danger your emotional brain becomes hyper-vigilant (the amygdala – which is responsible for emotional reactions like fear and anxiety). The area of the brain which is responsible for rational decision making (neocortex) turns “off” and gives control to the “emotional brain”. When you’re in “alert mode”, when you sense you’re not safe, you can’t perform on your maximum level of functioning.
  • When you feel you’re a part of a larger community it gives you a sense of safety, belonging, and connectedness, which increases:
    • cognitive intelligence
    • emotional wellbeing
    • life expectancy (Malcolm Gladwell – Outliers)
    • builds trust
    • enables cooperation
  • “psychologists from Stanford, Yale, and Columbia had middle school students write an essay, after which teachers provided different kinds of feedback”
The “magical feedback”
“I’m giving you these comments because I have very high expectations and I know that you can reach them.”
  • Revise their papers far more often, performance improved significantly
The formula of giving constructive feedback: accompanying criticism with high standards and assurance
  • Criticism + High Standards + Assurance
  • “It contains three separate cues:
1. You are part of this group.
2. This group is special; we have high standards here.
3. I believe you can reach those standards.”
Do people cooperate when they have power?
  • “You and another person, whom you’ve never met, each get four tokens.
  • Each token is worth a dollar if you keep it but two dollars if you give it to the other person.
  • How many tokens do you give the other person?
  • If you give all, you might end up with nothing.”
  • “On average people give 2.5 tokens to a stranger—slightly biased toward cooperation.”
The second part of the experiment
  • How to increase the level of cooperation?
  • 2 groups:
    • 1sr group: experimenters asked them to remain stone-faced and silent -> putting them into a powerless position, increasing their vulnerability
    • 2nd group: tweaking a situation to make them feel more invulnerable -> increasing people’s sense of power
  • 1st group (increased vulnerability): cooperation levels increased by 50%
  • 2nd group (increased sense of power): dramatically diminished their willingness to cooperate
Find 10 red balloons randomly located throughout US
  • Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), a division of the U.S. Department of Defense.
  • Helping America’s military prepare for future technological challenges, like terrorism and disease control.
  • They offered a $40,000 prize to the first group to accurately locate all ten balloons.
  • Hundreds of groups signed up – hackers, social media entrepreneurs, tech companies, and research universities.
The winner team:
  • MIT Red Balloon Challenge Team (from MIT Media Lab)
  • They built a social network and offered rewards. It was similar to the structure of Multi-level marketing schemes.
  • “We’re giving $2000 per balloon to the first person to send us the correct coordinates, but that’s not all—we’re also giving $1000 to the person who invited them. Then we’re giving $500 [to] whoever invited the inviter, and $250 to whoever invited them, and so on…”
  • “Compared to the sophisticated tools and technology deployed by other groups, the MIT team’s approach was laughably primitive.”
  • “Eight hours, fifty-two minutes, and forty-one seconds later, it was over. The MIT team had found all ten balloons and had done so with the help of 4,665 people”
  • Adam Grant – University of Michigan – improving the performance of fundraising call center workers. The rejection rate was 93%.
  • Grant asked beneficiaries of the money to write a letter and share their personal stories with the fundraiser employees.
  • He organized in person visits –“Here’s where I came from. Here’s what the money raised by your work means to me.”
  • Time spent calling increased by 142%
  • Weekly revenues increased by 172%
  • They created a high-purpose environment by connecting the present effort to a future outcome.
  • They made the employee’s impact concrete, vivid and personal.
Tackling football hooliganism
  • Clifford Stott, Liverpool University social psychologist – specializes in crowd violence
  • “His idea was that it was possible to stop crowd violence by changing the signals the police were transmitting. (…) Stott believed that the key to policing riots was to essentially stop policing riots.”
  • training the Portuguese police
  1. Keep all riot gear out of sight: no phalanxes of helmeted cops, no armored vehicles, no riot shields and batons
  2. Don’t create legitimacy problems: “The police can’t just go take the ball, because that’s precisely the kind of disproportionate use of force that creates the problem. If you wait until the ball comes to you and simply hang on to it, the crowd sees it as legitimate.” —> (The same ideas is mentioned by Malcolm Gladwell as “legitimacy problems)
  • More than one million fans visited the country over the three-week-long tournament – only one English fan was arrested.
  • two thousand crowd-police interactions – only 0.4% qualified as disorderly.
  • “(…) every time a fan notices the lack of protective armor, a signal is sent: We are here to get along.”
  • Will Felps, who studies organizational behavior at the University of South Wales in Australia
  • Felps has brought in “Nick” to portray three negative archetypes: the Jerk (an aggressive, defiant deviant), the Slacker (a withholder of effort), and the Downer (a depressive Eeyore type). Nick plays these roles inside forty four-person groups tasked with constructing a marketing plan for a start-up.
  • Nick’s behavior reduces the quality of the group’s performance by 30-40%
  • However, there is one exception: in one group the “bad apple” can’t influence the members. The difference is made by one guy, “Jonathan”.
  • They follow a pattern: Nick behaves like a jerk, and Jonathan reacts instantly with warmth, deflecting the negativity and making a potentially unstable situation feel solid and safe.
  • Group performance not depends on measurable abilities, like intelligence, skill, and experience. However, a set of small behaviors can make the difference.
  • The “good guy” “without taking any of the actions we normally associate with a strong leader. He doesn’t take charge or tell anyone what to do. He doesn’t strategize, motivate, or lay out a vision. He doesn’t perform so much as create conditions for others to perform, constructing an environment whose key feature is crystal clear: We are solidly connected. Jonathan’s group succeeds not because its members are smarter but because they are safer.”
I’m Sorry About the Rain!
Superfluous Apologies Demonstrate Empathic Concern and Increase Trust
  • Alison Wood Brooks – Harvard Business School – an experiment on trust
  • Would you give a stranger your phone?
  • SCENARIO 1: You are standing in the rain at a train station. A stranger approaches and politely says, “Can I borrow your cellphone?”
  • SCENARIO 2: You are standing in the rain at a train station. A stranger approaches and politely says, “I’m so sorry about the rain. Can I borrow your cellphone?”
  • QUESTION: To which stranger are you more likely to respond?
  • 2nd scenario: 422% more likely that a stranger will trust the person and will give him the phone
The Power of Social Connections
Dr. Gregory Walton – Stanford University
  • Solving a moderately tricky puzzle where the goal is to arrange colors and shapes on a map. There is no time limit. The researcher is leaving the room, but returning 2 minutes later, handing a handwritten note from another participant who solved the puzzle earlier.
  • “Steve did the puzzle earlier and wanted to share a tip with you.”
When people are feeling connected to someone:
  • People are working harder on the puzzle
  • twice as motivated to solve the problem
  • people are working 50% longer with more energy and enjoyment
  • “Steve’s tip was not actually useful. It contained zero relevant information. All the changes in motivation and behavior you experienced afterward were due to the signal that you were connected to someone who cared about you.”
Postcards from the Edge Project
  • Study of 772 patients who were admitted to a hospital after a suicide attempt.
  • Half received a postcard after leaving the hospital with the following text:
It has been a short time since you were here at Newcastle Mater Hospital, and we hope things are going well for you. If you wish to drop us a note, we would be happy to hear from you.
Best wishes,
  • “Over the next two years, members of the group that received the postcards were readmitted at half the rate of the control group.”
  • Feeling cared for creates a strong sense of belonging that can make all the difference.
  • “This is all about establishing relationships, conveying the fact that I’m interested in you, and that all the work we do together is in the context of that relationship.”  Dr. Gregory Walton
  • Researchers Arthur and Elaine Aron
  • Creating instant intimacy between strangers.
  • “While Set A allows you to stay in your comfort zone, Set B generates confession, discomfort, and authenticity that break down barriers between people and tip them into a deeper connection. While Set A generates information, Set B generates something more powerful: vulnerability.”
  • After a 45 minutes session the two strangers felt closer to each other than even to their family members.
  • “The original experiment was done with seventy-one pairs of strangers, and one pair ended up marrying. (They invited the entire lab to the ceremony.)”
  • This study demonstrated the power of showing vulnerability to another person. When 2 people mutually show their weak points to the other and make themselves vulnerable it instantly creates a strong bond between them. It creates trust. It sends a strong message: we are safe here.
David DeSteno – Northeastern University
  • “participants were asked to perform a long, tedious task on a computer that was rigged to crash just as they were completing it”
  • “one of their fellow participants (who was actually a confederate of the researchers) would walk over, notice the problem, and generously spend time “fixing” the computer”
  • People are significantly more cooperative after receiving help.
  • “But here’s the thing: They were equally cooperative with complete strangers. In other words, the feelings of trust and closeness sparked by the vulnerability loop were transferred in full strength to someone who simply happened to be in the room. The vulnerability loop, in other words, is contagious.”
  • “We feel like trust is stable, but every single moment your brain is tracking your environment, and running a calculation whether you can trust the people around you and bond with them. Trust comes down to context. And what drives it is the sense that you’re vulnerable, that you need others and can’t do it on your own.”   David DeSteno, Northeastern University
Dr. Carl Marci, Harvard neurologist
  • studies about non-Western healers“employing a spectacular range of methods that were scientifically dubious—for example, giving massage where the hands didn’t touch the patient, or administering drops of water with concentrations of ingredients that approached zero—and yet they achieved remarkable results.”
  • recorded conversations while tracking galvanic skin response – “the change in electrical resistance that measures emotional arousal”
  • The connection the healer formed with the patient really matters.
  • “Concordances happen when one person can react in an authentic way to the emotion being projected in the room,” Marci says. “It’s about understanding in an empathic way, then doing something in terms of gesture, comment, or expression that creates a connection.”
The Pygmalion Effect
The power of positive expectations
  • 1965 – Robert Rosenthal – Harvard psychologist
  • Testing the entire student body in a California public elementary school with a newly developed intelligence-identification tool: the Harvard Test of Inflected Acquisition
  • The researchers claimed it is able to predict the academic achievement of a child in the next year.
  • After doing the test they gave the teachers a list of “high-potential” students (20% of the students) -> “unusual potential for intellectual growth”
  • The measurement was NOT REAL, the teachers were the real subject of the experiment. The high-potential students were selected randomly.
  • The first-graders gained 27 IQ points (versus 12 points for the rest of the class)
  • second-graders gained 17 points (versus 7 points)
  • “They were described by their teachers as being more curious, happier, better adjusted, and more likely to experience success as adults. What’s more, the teachers reported that they had enjoyed teaching that year more than any year in the past.”
“Rosenthal classified the changes into four categories.
  1. Warmth (the teachers were kinder, more attentive, and more connective)
  2. Input (the teachers provided more material for learning)
  3. Response-opportunity (the teachers called on the students more often, and listened more carefully)
  4. Feedback (the teachers provided more, especially when the student made a mistake)”
  • Narratives, stories, and expectations formed reality. Just one sentence: “this child has high-potential” made significant changes in the teacher’s behavior. At the end it was like a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Employee commitment
  • Indian call center facing very high employee turnover, very low engagement and commitment.
  • First attempt to fix the problem: increasing incentives (extrinsic motivation) – “They boosted salaries, added perks, and touted their company’s award as one of India’s best employers.” – THIS DIDN’T WORK.
  • Researchers Bradley Staats, Francesco Gino, and Daniel Cable – dividing employees into 3 groups.
1st group: emphasize company IDENTITY:
  • “standard training plus an additional hour that focused on WIPRO’s identity”
  • “heard about the company’s successes, met a “star performer,” and answered questions about their first impressions of WIPRO”
  • received company T-shirt
2nd group: create BELONGING between the company and the employee
  • focused to establish a connection between the company and the person
  • “received a steady stream of individualized, future-oriented, amygdala-activating belonging cues”
  • “(…) a personal question about their best times at work, an exercise that revealed their individual skills, a sweatshirt embroidered with their name.”
3rd group: CONTROL GROUP
  • they received standard training
  • Reducing interpersonal distance between employees and the company is the most effective way of creating engagement and commitment.
  • After 7 months “Trainees from group two were 250 percent more likely than those from group one and 157 percent more likely than those from the control group to still be working at WIPRO.”


Organizational Blueprints for Success
Study about 200 high-tech startups
  • sociologists: James Baron and Michael Hannan studied the founding blueprint of 200 Silicon Valley startups.
  • They identified 5 different founding models:
  1. Star model – hiring the brightest people
  2. Professional model -> building the group around specific skill sets
  3. Commitment model -> reliance on emotional or familial ties of employees to the organization, selection based on cultural fit, and peer-group control
  4. Bureaucracy -> Selecting individuals based on their qualifications for a particular role, and formalized control
  5. Autocracy -> employment premised on monetary motivations, employees to perform pre-specified tasks
  • “the commitment model consistently led to the highest rates of success”
  • The survival rate was the highest during and after the tech bubble in the early 2000s.
  • “achieved initial public offering 3 times more often”
  • Saying thank you encourages cooperative behavior.
  • Step 1. : help a student named “Eric” write a cover letter for a job application
  • Step 2. : receiving 2 kinds of answers: thankful and neutral response
  • Step 3. : request for help from “Steve,” a different student
  • When starlings are in danger, when whey are attacked by a predator they gather into large groups. The smallest group can consist from 200 startling, larger ones can contain even millions of starlings.
  • “The question, of course, is how so many birds behave like a single entity.”
  • 2007 – study by a team of theoretical physicists from the University of Rome
  • The starlings’ cohesion is built on relentless attention to a small set of signals.
  • Each starling tracks the six or seven birds closest to it, every starling.
  • It grows exponential: every sealing shows the new direction to take for 7 more starling and so on.
  • They can act instantly as one.
Heuristics that drive behavior
  • One of the first slime mold researchers, John Tyler Bonner made a movie about slime molds in the 1940s.
  • The greatest scientists of the era considered it one of the most important discoveries of the century.
  • Slime molds are living separate lives. But when food becomes scarce they gather together and moving as one single entity in perfect unity.
  • The slime mold is able to make very complex decisions and even to solve complex mathematical problems with basically no intelligence.
  • “But in reality, we’re using very simple rules of thumb. The slime mold shows us that it’s possible for groups to solve extremely complex problems using a few rules of thumb. (…) “Honeybees work the same way,” Beekman says. “So do ants and many other species. They all use decision-making heuristics. There’s no reason we wouldn’t use it too. If you look at these species, you can feel the connection. Like us, they all seek a collective goal.” Madeleine Beekman, University of Sydney
  • “heuristics that provide guidance by creating if/then scenarios in a vivid, memorable way”
  • “Many leaders of high-proficiency groups focus on creating priorities, naming keystone behaviors, and flooding the environment with heuristics that link the two.”
The original film:
Corporate Culture and Performance
  • 1992 – Harvard Business School professor James Heskett – analyzing the corporate cultures of 200 companies.
  • Question: What is the relationship between company culture and financial performance?
  • Over the period of 11 years, a strong company culture increased net income by 756%
Further reading:
  • “In 2013, researchers Eric Uhlmann and Christopher Barnes analyzed nine seasons worth of NBA games, comparing behavior in the regular season with behavior in the play-offs. They discovered that players who made a shot in the play-offs received $22,044.55 additional salary per field goal made. Players who passed the ball to a teammate who made a shot lost $6,116.69. Passing the ball instead of shooting is the equivalent of handing a teammate $28,161.24.”
  • Traditional sandwich feedback method:
  1. Talk about a positive.
  2. Discussing the area that needs improvement.
  3. Finishing with a positive.
  • It leads to confusion. The overall message isn’t clear is confusing. People wonder: “Ok, but am I doing good now or not?…”
  • “People tend to focus either entirely on the positive or entirely on the negative”
What to do?
  • “In the cultures I visited, I didn’t see many feedback sandwiches. Instead, I saw them separate the two into different processes. They handled negatives through dialogue, first by asking if a person wants feedback, then having a learning-focused two-way conversation about the needed growth.”
  • “What Worked Well/Even Better If” format for the feedback sessions: first celebrating the story’s positives, then offering ideas for improvement.”
  • 1998 Amy Edmondson + Harvard researchers
  • Learning velocity – a good measure of team performance
  • “learning velocity of sixteen surgical teams learning to perform a new heart surgery technique”
  • Hospitals fell into two groups: high success and low success groups.
  • “The answer, Edmondson discovered, lay in the patterns of real-time signals through which the team members were connected (or not) with the purpose of the work. These signals consisted of five basic types:”
  1. Framing: How we can benefit from this procedure?
  2. Roles: Why individual and collective skills are important for this job?
  3. Rehearsal: It is essential to take the time to prepare for the new task.
  4. Explicit encouragement to speak up: Speaking up is mandatory when someone spots a problem.
  5. Active reflection: Discussing results between surgeries. What was right and what went wrong?
The “Allen curve”
  • Cold War – late 1970s
  • Race between the United States and the Soviet Union to build extremely powerful atomic weapons and send a man to the moon.
  • MIT professor – Thomas Allen conducted research to measure the effectiveness of engineering groups.
  • He studied a large number of “twin projects” – two or more engineering firms worked together to work on a complex problem.
  • Goal: find the factors that successful projects had in common.
  • Thomas Allen found something absolutely unexpected: the factor that differentiated successful teams from unsuccessful ones: “The distance between their desks.”
  • “What mattered most in creating a successful team had less to do with intelligence and experience and more to do with where the desks happened to be located.”
  • “Something as simple as visual contact is very, very important, more important than you might think”
  • “Increase the distance to 50 meters, and communication ceases, as if a tap has been shut off. Decrease distance to 6 meters, and communication frequency skyrockets.”



The end!