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Is Gossip the Secret to a Successful Team?

April 29, 2018

It’s never easy keeping your team both happy and productive.

Different parties almost always have their own take on situations, and there’s both an art and a science to balancing various versions of reality—especially when teammates are in heavy conflict.

If you’re struggling to lead your team, you may be missing a few tools from your belt. Let’s take a look at two simple—yet surprising—elements for successful team management, as well as the anthropological theories behind them.

Gossiping

Yep, you heard right. Gossiping is a proven working glue among groups of less than 150 people.

Archaeological findings have shown that early sapien hunter-gatherer societies were always maintained around that magic number. In fact, gossiping is such a powerful phenomenon that some anthropologists have attributed the birth of language to the convenience of discussing the next person.

The major takeaway from this is that when it comes to management, don’t kill the gossiping tendency of your team. If managed properly, it will serve as the most cost-effective tool to solidify team coherence.

However, too much vicious gossiping may turn out to be detrimental to the team’s health. When gossiping loses its magic, the next tool comes in handy:

Vision

It’s no coincidence that successful corporations like Apple, Google, and Porsche have all cultivated an identifiable culture that’s supported by a vision. When a group has reached over 150 people—the travel length of gossip—a new device is created to serve the same purpose: belief.

Die Welle, 2008.

Belief, be it religion, socialism, nationalism, or capitalism, is essential to maintain a shared reality. It’s through belief that people assume a similar identity, build trust, and head towards a collective goal with greater momentum.

In terms of team management, this inter-subjective reality can be achieved by disseminating a team vision, either towards “the best personal computer in the world” (Apple), or “providing access to the world's information in one click” (Google). Existing team members will learn to share this vision, and new faithful members may be attracted, making it much easier to push forward as one force.