Mind to Mind

A new Korn Ferry report reveals how leaders can use neuroscience to make their teams more collaborative, more cooperative and more effective. 


Amelia Haynes

Associate Researcher, Korn Ferry Institute

Have you ever had the experience of working with a team when everything felt like it was just working? Where everything seemed to flow naturally, and everyone seemed to be in sync?

New research from the field of neuroscience suggests that the root of this feeling lies deeper than a team’s environment or the subject matter of a team’s project. Instead, according to scientists, cooperation and coordination have neurological and biological explanations. “When we work well together with others, our brain waves, our emotions, and our bodies synchronize—moving in unison with those of our partners,” says Amelia Haynes, Associate in Research with the Korn Ferry Institute, Korn Ferry’s research arm.

And it’s not just that working well with others gives rise to this surprising phenomenon. Studies show that the emergence of this phenomenon predicts important group outcomes, such as making smart decisions, understanding the thoughts and behaviors of others, and having a good relationship with your team.  “In fact, it’s actually causal,” says Michael Platt, Professor of Neuroscience, Psychology and Marketing, and Director of the Wharton Neuroscience Initiative at the University of Pennsylvania. “When scientists synchronize brain activity in two mice, the animals groom each other, which strengthens their social bonds. When people make eye contact or mirror each other, synchrony goes up, increasing trust and cooperation.”

In its new paper, Mind to Mind, the Korn Ferry Institute, in collaboration with the Wharton Neuroscience Initiative, explores interpersonal synchrony and its impact on team effectiveness. The first half of the report dives into the science behind why and how humans synchronize, while the second half discusses novel possibilities of how leaders can leverage synchrony to optimize team performance.

The insights revealed in the paper, Haynes says, launch an exciting discussion into the ways newly emerging trends in interpersonal neuroscience can shed light on teamwork and business performance—and how leaders can make it better. “Cutting-edge research from interpersonal neuroscience opens the door for leaders to use a new kind of data to make teams more collaborative, more cooperative, and more efficient,” Haynes says.

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