At our core, as humans, we are tribal. Homophily, or “love of the same” is the tendency of people with similar characteristics to congregate.
Today, technology gives individuals the freedom to work from virtually anywhere and gives companies the ability to expand their team globally. This allows companies to tap into more knowledge and expertise as they are not bound to location-specific team members.
With this global expansion comes increased diversity and complexity among teams. This can be both a help and a hindrance to companies moving into the remote work space.
As the world shrinks there are less defined lines between “us” and “them” and there is an increased need to look beyond our differences and focus on genuine human similarities.
In a study conducted by the Concours Institute (a member of BSG Alliance) and the Cooperative Research Project of London Business School, it was discovered that the same characteristics necessary for a team in today’s business world to succeed -- large, virtual, diverse and composed of highly educated specialists -- are the same characteristics that cause a team’s productivity to decrease.
Research collected from the 1,543 responses among 55 teams ranging in size from 44 members to 183 members showed that members of complex teams are less likely to collaborate. The study also found that “as the size of a team increases beyond 20 members, the tendency to collaborate naturally decreases.”
The majority of the teams studied were spread among multiple locations, as many as 13 sites around the globe. The research showed that “as teams became more virtual...cooperation declined, unless the company had taken measures to establish a collaborative culture.”
When purposeful investments are made to increase collaboration across organizations then teams can discover massive success.
With increased diversity being inevitable for a company’s success as it can spark insight and innovation, it also has the potential to cause problems. In the same study, research showed that “team members collaborate more easily and naturally if they perceive themselves as being alike. The differences that inhibit collaboration include not only nationality but also age, educational level, and even tenure. Greater diversity also often means that team members are working with people that they know only superficially or have never met before.”
This study also found that “the higher the proportion of strangers on the team and the greater the diversity of background and experience, the less likely the team members are to share knowledge or exhibit other collaborative behaviors.”
This study led to a list of eight factors to strengthen a team’s ability to collaborate and “maximize the effectiveness of large, diverse teams, while minimizing the disadvantages posed by their structure and composition.”
In this article we are going to discuss three of these “success factors” and how to use travel to successfully achieve these and build your ideal team.
1. Building on heritage relationships
When too many team members are strangers, people may be reluctant to share knowledge. (source)
I had not heard the phrase “culturally competent” until recently. Not only is cultural competency a much needed skill for distributed companies to be successful, but it would also send our world in the direction of world peace. Wouldn’t that be nice?
Cultural competency involves the ability to be aware of one’s own world view while being positive and open towards different views. Being culturally competent essentially means having the capacity to function effectively within the context of multiple cultural beliefs, behaviors and needs.
Immersive travel allows us to develop cultural competency faster. By throwing ourselves into something completely new and unknown, by instinct we are forced to begin to look at what instead might be the same or familiar.
Cultural competency is a valuable tool for remotely distributed team members to have. With the potential to have co-workers spread across the globe, not just living in different cultures, but also coming from different cultural backgrounds, the ability to understand, communicate with, and interact with each other more effectively is necessary.
A team member’s ability to be effective in their interactions with people from almost any culture, and not just one they’ve experienced already or studied, is invaluable.
Having a team retreat where co-workers can experience a new culture together will allow them to focus on how they are more similar rather than how they are different.
2. Supporting a strong sense of community
When people feel a sense of community, they are more comfortable reaching out to others and more likely to share knowledge. (source)
Biologist E.O. Wilson, in his piece for Newsweek Why Humans, Like Ants, Need A Tribe writes: “In ancient history and prehistory, tribes gave visceral comfort and pride from familiar fellowship...it gave people social meaning in a chaotic world.”
A successful business is more than just the skills and abilities of each team member; the team members must know how to function as one big team. They must feel they are part of a larger community and have the ability to collaborate and communicate successfully.
According to Bruce Rickert, founder and CEO of Peak Performance Meetings and Incentives, claims the best way to build stronger connections between team members is to get them out of the everyday office environment.
Through a retreat, by giving team members an opportunity to gather outside of their regular routines and break their normal patterns of work, you give them a chance to form bonds that are stronger than those that would form inside the four walls of a traditional office space.
By traveling together, team members can learn new skills together, tackle unexpected obstacles, and begin to feel like they are part of a community even if they live on opposite sides of the globe.
Traveling together gives teams a chance to be inspired with new ideas while teaching time management at the same time. Imagine the inspiration that can come from walking the streets of Morocco, surrounded by new sights and smells! But, if one team member is late for the shuttle, no one gets to go to the market.
The team members are part of a community, and as one team member thrives, so does the whole community; but if one team member is lacking, it changes the experience for the entire community.
By taking your team on a retreat together, you will be able to build trust between team members. Trust is a huge part of feeling a sense of community as well.
Because bonds formed through experiences are stronger, these bonds don’t need the four walls of an office building to stay strong. This sense of community will continue to be felt long after the retreat is over.
3. Investing in signature relationship practices
Executives can encourage collaborative behavior by making highly visible investments that demonstrate their commitment to collaboration. (source)
Building strong relationships between team members is crucial to the success of a distributed company. It is human nature to feel connected to someone else you feel is similar to you. As the team feels more connected to each other, they will be able to collaborate with each other more freely. In order to feel more connected, the team must feel a sense of “sameness” between them.
Traveling and experiencing new places together will allow team members to see their similarities rather than their difference.
Perceived similarities of status and values make it much more likely that we will connect and form lasting bonds with our fellows...without strong cohesion, human groups ranging from hunter gatherer societies, business organizations, and even modern nation states would not be able to adequately meet the constant challenges they face.
By no means do you want to try and create a false sense of sameness by ignoring differences. Differences among team members should be celebrated, but finding the common threads gives us the clarity to weave the larger web we are all a part of.
Whether a team is co-located, remote or distributed, all teams need collaborative culture to succeed. However, remote teams and distributed companies may find it more difficult.
Isolated remote workers sometimes struggle to find what Biologist E.O. Wilson claims is our instinct, and that is to want to join together as a tribe and be a part of something:
“The drive to join is deeply ingrained, a result of a complicated evolution that has led our species to a condition that biologists call eusociality. “Eu-”...is a prefix meaning pleasant or good...the eusocial group contains multiple generations whose members perform altruistic acts, sometimes against their own personal interests, to benefit their group...Group selection favors altruistic behavior and is responsible for the origin of the most advanced level of social behavior, that attained by ants, bees, termites—and humans.”
Building a retreat around the specific needs of your remote team is vital for your company’s success.
Where do you think your team would want to go? What would you do while you were there? Who would attend the retreat? This are valid questions, and questions that the Rebel + Connect team is prepared to guide you through. So book your FREE consultation today!
Who has hosted a company retreat before? Was it successful? What could have been done better? How did it help your team connect? Please share in the comments below!
Rebel + Connect creates custom retreats for remote teams. A Colorado based company owned and operated by Charlie Birch, Rachel McGehee, and Summer Weirich, we operate remotely and service clients from all over the globe. Join us as we create cultures of meaning and celebrate human connections in a digital world!
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