Collaborating Without Words.

It is often stated that 93% of communication is non-verbal – 55% of communication is body language, 38% is tone and only 7% is the words.

Those percentages are very difficult to prove but nevertheless, they are probably even higher when you are communicating and collaborating across different continents, where communicating across cultures is 100% about eye contact.

So by way of a new warm-up at last night’s Union Network event on Intercontinental Innovation, we tried a short exercise that we learned recently from Professor Jay Narayanan at IMD. The exercise is conducted as follows:

  1. Invite everybody to stand up and walk around the space. No talking and no eye contact. (30 seconds).
  2. Continue walking around the space. Still no talking but now make eye contact with each other. (30 seconds).
  3. Now find somebody you don’t know and without speaking pair off with them and continue walking around the space as a pair. If there is an odd number there should be one, and only one, trio. Don’t leave anybody hanging! (30 seconds)
  4. Lastly, without speaking, with your new partner find another pair of people, preferably whom you also both don’t know and form a quartet. (30 seconds)
  5. Now stop and introduce yourself to each other. Ask yourselves what happened and why? (2 minutes)

It was an interesting way to form new groups and one that I intend to try again as a different way to form groups in future. See a picture of where our group ended up towards the end of the exercise in the image above.

We are all drawn to people who are similar to us but also who are different to us. And an exercise like this helps us be more aware of the tribes we identify with and gives us an opportunity to combine and recombine in different ways.

“Look into my eyes, look into my eyes, the eyes, the eyes, not around the eyes, don’t look around my eyes, look into my eyes, you’re under.” Kenny Craig

Another build on this idea that is also worth exploring is the idea of clustering ideas after a brainstorming exercise without speaking. It seems very strange at first but can be remarkably productive and insightful.

Actions speak louder than words and the eyes speak loudest of all.

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