Here’s some exciting news for anybody who is in the business of leading change. As we all know, the right communication skills are crucial for fostering innovation in your organization. Recently, researchers at Stanford Universityexamined the correlation between certain kinds of body language and highly creative teams. They discovered that teams come up with the most creative output when the members exhibit a high degree of nonverbal synchrony. That’s a fancy way of saying that groups are at their most creative when their members are mirroring each others body language.
This won’t be surprising to anybody who has attended one of my PowerListening workshops. For a long time I’ve been teaching the power of “mirroring,” subtly reflecting another person’s movements, as a way of getting that person to like and trust you. It’s an almost magical technique that allows you to instantly create a strong interpersonal bond with colleagues, clients, and customers. It turns out that teams that are given problems to solve come up with more creative solutions when they are mirroring one another than teams that are “out of synch” nonverbally.
Now, the researchers do stress that correlation isn’t causation, but it’s not hard to imagine that the feeling of trust and rapport that are produced by mirroring give people the confidence to take risks when suggesting ideas.
There are two ways you can use this knowledge to your advantage. If you are a manager, be on the lookout for team members who naturally synchronize to one-another’s movements. These people have a powerful rapport, and when you find them, assign them to work together on projects that require creativity and innovation. If you are a member of a team, you can encourage creativity by intentionally mirroring the body language of the key members of your group. Remember, as I teach in my seminars, be subtle about this. Make your movements similar, but not identical to theirs. Your goal is to reflect their nonverbal cues, not mimic them.