David Rock of the NeuroLeadership Institute appeared recently on CNN to help better understand why various groups either get along while others don’t. The interview topic was prompted by how the working of the brain can influence the differences between Congress and the Presidential Office and more specifically how it relates to the discussions over the ‘fiscal cliff”.
Research by Rock and others in this field has shown that there is a very natural logic behind this type of bipartisan behavior that goes way beyond any political or moral ideology. Since the beginning of time we have functioned in small communities which Rock refers to as “In Groups”. Anyone outside this group is seen as a natural threat by the brain and is referred to as belonging to an “Out Group”.
Rock goes on to suggest that within these “In Groups” there is common bond around perception, empathy and motivation. Think about this relative to somebody close to you, like a spouse. In a good relationship you will have a positive perception of them, feel a sense of sincere empathy for them and be highly motivated to support them. The secret to this is the common purpose, that as a couple you possess. Conversely, with somebody who is not part of your “In Group”, most likely these will not be present.
Within the world of business, one of the biggest challenges facing many multi national organizations is how to most effectively deal with local and global (corporate) control. Some in their naivety would suggest that you can think global and act local. That just oversimplifies something much more complex but there is an answer.
The secret to addressing this is to find some common goals; things you can agree on. With that, a foundation for trust is built that can begin to change perceptions (from negative to positive) improve empathy (selfish to selfless) and enhance motivation (from disengaged to engaged). As two “Out Groups” converge on becoming one “In Group” that is when true collaboration occurs.