We tend to celebrate the legends of the lone inventors who create breakthrough ideas through their own tenacity and innovative thinking. But the lone inventor myth is—well—a myth.
The truth is that whether achievements are big or small, they are rarely accomplished alone. This is a good thing because working with others makes us better in lots of ways worth paying attention to.
Here are four ways we can be more effective, just by tapping into our social instincts as humans and the social nature of work.
Invite Feedback (And A Crowd)
When we’re as young as 24 months, we are aware others are evaluating us. We even adjust our behavior to receive positive responses. In addition, a new study finds we tend to perform better when we have an audience. Psychologists call this “social facilitation” and believe the process of having to perform enhances motivation which, in turn, impacts effectiveness.
When you’re working on a project, invite others in to provide feedback on your progress or expand the audience of a presentation you have coming up. By creating a situation in which you’re performing for others, you may just improve the performance itself.
Manage Your Reputation
Because we are social creatures, it is also in our nature to manage our reputations. In one study, people were more likely to donate to a museum when an image of eyes was placed near the donation box. In another experiment, when a graphic set of eyes was nearby people contributed nearly three times as much to the self-policing coffee fund. In each case, the suggestion that someone was watching led to higher donations.
Be your best by reminding yourself about the importance of your accountability to others and contribution to the whole.
Self-awareness is also key. A study of children found when a mirror was present, they were more likely to take just the one piece of candy they were allowed rather than additional pieces. Another study demonstrated when mirrors were present, North Americans tended to be more self-critical and cheated less. Even lighting levels mattered in another set of experiments. Lower lighting (or even having participants wear sunglasses) tended to result in an increase in cheating.
Be aware of others and your responsibility to the whole. None of us is perfect, but staying true to your integrity is critical. In addition, making choices that benefit your team or organization is smart for your career and the well-being of your colleagues.
Associate With Colleagues Who Inspire You
We tend to behave, in part, based on how those around us act. This is a psychological dynamic called “social contagion” or “behavioral contagion.” Specifically, being around people who are generous and cooperative has a positive effect on our own pro-social behavior. In one study, researchers concluded that individuals’ cooperation levels aren’t set, but rather are affected by the social norms of the group. Groups that share more tended to have individuals who were also likely to share more as well.
Spend time with people who bring out your best. Being with those who are generous, caring and contribute positively, is likely to have a positive effect on you and your own choices.
As the saying goes, “To go fast, go alone, and to go far, go together.” These are wise words for societies, but also for a great career journey in which we can work together to bring out the best in ourselves.
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