Monthly Archives: August 2016

Happy Employees are More Creative Employees

Maybe you missed the big news back in 2013, but the whole left brain/right brain theory isnäó»t as simple as we were led to believe. Sure, one side does some heavy lifting when, for example, counting out loud (thatäó»s the left), but neuroscientists now say that the two hemispheres mostly work together.

Well, sort of. Actually, scientists think that the hemispheres work semi-independently to solve problems, each side of the brain taking a different approach. In this fashion, we use both sides of our brain almost all of the time in an interactive cognitive process. So if creative thinking doesnäó»t come from the right side of the brain, where does it happen and why do we care?

Letäó»s answer the second question first: Because creative thinking is highly valuable in most workplacesäóîat least the creative cultures that require more than funky furniture and a laid-back dress code. And, it turns out, that happy employees just might be your most creative employees.

Now back to the first question: One recent study, done in an fMRI scanner with jazz musicians improvising together, found the first item of interest: Playing free-form improv slowed down activity in their brainsäó» dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), which is the mothering part of the brain that plans and self-censors. (Makes sense. Right?)

The DLPFC is involved in risk, moral and cost-and-benefit decision making. Itäó»s also a section of the brain that takes ridiculously long to develop, which explains the questionable judgment of teenagers.

In another recent study, also done with fMRI and jazz musicians, neuroscientists showed musicians photos of äóìan actress representing a positive, negative or ambiguous emotionäó before they began playing music.

What these researchers discovered is that emotion has an impact on the actual way our brains act when being creative. The sad photo stimulated connectivity between the insula, the spot that manages visceral awareness, and the substantia nigra, an area that oversees pleasure and reward (which explains the prevalence of break-up songs in society). And the positive emotion deactivated the DLPFC the most, meaning that happiness set the scene for a deeper state of creative flow by shutting down the brainäó»s mothering tendencies.

To extrapolate from these studies and transfer the findings to the workplace, it would make sense that happy employees, surrounded by positivity, are likely to be the most creative because theyäó»ll be able to deactivate more of the DLPFC. The moral? Hire happy people. And keep them that wayäóîunless youäó»re in the music industry.

10 Tips for Team-Building Success

Professional golfer Arnold Palmer once said, äóìGolf is deceptively simple and endlessly complicated.äó And golf isnäó»t even a team sport. Add a few more humans into the mix and so many factorsäóîpoor communication, clashing personalities, lack of trust, misunderstood goalsäóîcan lead to utter chaos. Studies show that these problems, and others, can undermine almost any teamäóîwhether itäó»s made up of powerful executives or other co-workers.

Like romance, thereäó»s no way to force the magic. But weäó»ve been in the team-building business long enough to know how to tilt the odds in your favor. Œæ

1. Identify the Goal
Whatäó»s the objective? Is it to amplify a sense of teamwork throughout the organization, or is this an opportunity for an existing team to learn to work together better? Thereäó»s a difference and different ways to approach it.

2. Training Versus Team Building
Training and teambuilding are both important, but theyäó»re different beasts. Overt instruction in transferable work skills is training. Situations that foster interaction by working toward shared goals and incorporating fun are the essence of good team building.

3. Itäó»s a Business Expense
Team building isnäó»t a gift to employees or a special extravagance. Tally it as part of doing business. Employee retention, company culture, and engaged and productive teams are worth an investment.

4. Go Offsite
Memorable events rarely have anything to do with another day at the office.

5. Seek Experiences
Experiences are the key to happiness. And research shows that happy employees work more effectively, creatively and collaboratively.

6. But Not Just Any Experiences
Going to comedy clubs, attending baseball games or concerts and listening to poetry readings are spectator events. Theyäó»re easy to participate in without much interaction. Instead, look for interactive experiences that level the playing field for everyone. Ideally, seek situations where everyone is stretched a little beyond the comfort zone.

7. Once a Year Isnäó»t Enough
Why do so many couples in long-term relationships schedule regular date nights? Hmmmmäó_

8. Hire the Experts
Outsource to get the most innovative, fun and powerful experience possible. As we mentioned earlier, itäó»s a business expense.

9. If it Ainäó»t Broke
If an outside facilitator provided an outstanding experience, work with them again. Finding something new, just for the sake of novelty, is risky and time consuming. Most team-building experts offer plenty of variety and can accommodate return customers.

10. Evaluate
Was there laughter? High fives? A sense of accomplishment? Did employees rate it as a worthwhile experience? And did some of that vibe follow everyone back to the office? If so, that was successful team building.

Pokí©mon Go & The Pursuit of Happiness

Only 10 days after its release, Pokí©mon Go was declared the biggest mobile game in U.S. history. Thatäó»s right. Americans cast aside Angry Birds and Candy Crush to chase virtual Pokí©mon creatures all over the world, getting arrested for trespassing, among other things, while they were at it.

Outside of mobile gaming, the most popular board game in history is chess, and the childhood favorite, according to an unscientific aggregation of The Go Game Google searches, is hide-and-seek. (And not to steal the thunder from Pokí©mon Go, but chess and hide-and-seek have their own share of reported arrests, such as Bobby Fischer for violating economic sanctions against Yugoslavia for playing a match in that country, seven men who were caught playing chess in New York City in a park area off-limits to adults unaccompanied by kids, and the naked guy who got stuck in a chimney for 12 hours in a game of hide-and-seek gone awry.

So, aside from weird arrests, what do Pokí©mon Go, chess and hide-and-seek have in common? The short answer: the pursuit of happiness.

Games, if theyäó»re good, are built to offer rewards as theyäó»re playedäóîpoints, other peopleäó»s game pieces or the glee of finding a well-hidden friend. These rewards activate the brainäó»s pleasure center, which releases dopamine. When that happens, itäó»s like weäó»ve drunk from a super heroäó»s water bottle. Dopamine boosts our motivation and concentration. We feel euphoric. Without getting too deep into the science, dopamine is a dose of happiness at its most foundational level. Matthias Koepp and his colleagues documented this relationship between dopamine and video games in a study published in the journal Nature in 1998.

But the pursuit of happiness isnäó»t only about a dopamine fix. Games, if well engineered, can offer social interaction with other people, distraction from day-to-day life (a.k.a. recreation), a sense of accomplishment, the opportunity to use our imaginations and sometimes even a sense of belonging. (Fact: There are still Dungeons and Dragons groups out there. Bonus trivia: Which is saying something because D&D was first released in 1974.)

Because weäó»re in the industry and love play in all its forms, we were also curious to compare and contrast the Pokí©mon Go experience with what we create. Overall, The Go Game and Pokí©mon Go are similar in the sense that both turn the real world into a game, but instead of looking at the world through a device, our games foster deeper interactions with the physical environment and the people within it.
To break it down: Both games use technology to get people outside, move around physically and explore their surroundings in a new way. Like Pokí©mon Go, our games augment reality, not in the form of virtual AR, but by bringing actors and fictional challenges into the mix.

But the similarities end there. Pokí©mon Go players pursue virtual critters that rustle in the bushes and battle other playersäó» pets, while The Go Game players solve riddles and crusade against other teams in head-to-head challenges of wit and skill. In The Go Game, players take goofy photos and videos of their colleagues and friends instead of virtual monsters. And perhaps most notably, while Pokí©mon Go brings strangers together to form teams, The Go Game unites co-workers in collaborationäóîthe pursuit of happiness with a team.

Whether Pokí©mon Go stands the test of time is yet to be determined, but, at its core, the latest in digital gaming is similar to other popular gamesäóîeven The Go Game, except we have no rap sheet.