By Alex “Sandy” Pentland

When the MIT Human Dynamics Laboratory researchers equipped actual teams with electronic badges and recorded their collaborative behavior, the data revealed that the most important predictor of a team’s success was its communication patterns. The three critical dimensions of communication that affect team performance included:

1. Energy: The number and nature of exchanges between team members. The most effective exchanges were face-to-face and videoconferencing.

2. Engagement: The distribution of energy among team members. When all team members had equal, high levels of energy with other members, engagement was strong.

3. Exploration: This included the communication that members engaged in outside of their teams. Higher performing teams sought more outside connections.

To improve individual and team performances, it is necessary for teams to explore the three critical dimensions of communication through the following steps:

*Step 1: Visualization. A team’s communication data can be collected by measuring and recording its energy, engagement, and exploration and mapping it over time.

*Step 2: Training. A team must use the map of its communication pattern as iterative visual feedback. It will be able to improve its communication pattern by using this visual tool to identify its shortcomings.

*Step 3: Fine-tuning performance. This includes mapping the energy and engagement patterns against a team’s performance metrics. The more the team aims to match its communication pattern to the high-performance ideal, the more its productivity will increase.


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