How the Kindergarteners Won

In the previous post I related an experiment that was done to highlight aspects that create a good culture in which teams can be productive. As a self-improvement business coach in the Woodlands one of the areas of focus in corporations and small businesses that I collaborate with has been regarding culture and how culture impacts not only a team’s efficiency but effectiveness.

The kindergarteners in the experiment won against teams of business students. They also carried the experiment to other groups. The kindergarteners defeated lawyers and CEOs. So, what was going on that created this unexpected result?

Let’s start with what we focus on, which is individual skills. If you think about it, individual skills are easy to focus on because they are the most visible. But, when it comes to team performance, it is not individual skills that matter. What matters is the interaction.

Let’s take a look at the business students. As a personal business coach in Houston, I have worked with talented young people. The business students had more talent individually than the kindergartners. But they were not engaged in collaboration, so much as what psychologists call, status management. They were figuring where they fit into the larger picture. Who is in charge? Is it okay to criticize someone’s idea? What are the rules here? Their interactions appear smooth, but their underlying behavior is riddled with inefficiency, hesitation, and subtle competition. As a result of managing status their first efforts collapse and they run out of time.

The kindergarteners, on the other hand, appear to be disorganized on the surface. But when you view them as a single entity, their behavior is efficient and effective. They are not competing for status. They work energetically together. They move quickly, spot problems and offer help. They experiment, take risks, and notice outcomes, which guides them toward effective solutions.

The kindergarteners succeed not because they are smarter but because they work in a smarter way. As we know, and the kindergartners prove it, group culture is a very powerful force.