How round tables increase engagement & performance

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Research shows that circular seating highlights the need to belong, whereas angular arrangements prime the desire to be unique.

Forget for a moment that this study is about consumer research, it’s underlying lesson is easily applied to human & organizational dynamics. Trade in your rectangular conference table for a round one if you want to increase the cohesiveness of your team, especially when finding solutions to deliver challenging results. Compared to the challenges you face today, the Knights of the Round Table had much more challenging circumstances in order more than survive, but thrive.

Lesson 1

The geometric shape of a seating arrangement can impact consumers by priming one of two fundamental needs: a need to belong or a need to be unique. What do you need? A group that works as a team, i.e. the group as a whole is greater the the individual sum? Or feeding the desire to be “unique” which has a team work as a series of individuals?

Lesson 2

Consumers (your audience) will be most favorable toward persuasion material (advertising) that is consistent with the primed need. “Primed need” is the job of leadership and effective communication. Make objectives & results expected relevant to the individuals to have to deliver them through their individual & collective performance.

A recent real life example

Mickey Arison is the owner of the Miami Heat, who just claimed their 2nd straight NBA Championship title. In a post game interview, he said about his management style; “Hire the best people you can and then let them do their jobs. If they make mistakes, learn from these in order to become better performers as a team”. While the Miami Heat may have the best player in the NBA in Lebron James, so did the Cleveland Cavaliers at one stage. Yet Cleveland were never able to win a championship, and eventually lost Lebron as a consequence. What Miami did differently was put the best people around the table, and then let them learn from their mistakes (failed first championship) to then outperform everyone else with two consecutive NBA titles.

Summary

Replace the word “consumer” with “employee or team member”; “Circular shaped seating arrangements prime a need to belong while angular shaped seating arrangements prime a need to be unique. The shape of a seating arrangement, a subtle environmental cue, can activate fundamental human needs, and these needs in turn affect consumer responses to persuasive messages.”

Effective leadership is all about persuasion and moving people to action. What’s within your control to affect your teams performance? What little things can you do to support a more cohesive unit that outperforms the competition?

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