So I was thinking about all of the extra things that we have to go through, accept, adapt to and learn in this weird new world we live it with COVID 19. The obvious is that we are being forced to do things remotely in ways that we would not have normally chosen to do. Yes, we all had to learn how to do Zoom meetings adopt FaceTime and other video chat or meeting options.
We all had to help out our older family or friends who did not get it, but wanted to see their loved ones at least on video. And yes, some don’t care at all and ignore not knowing.
But I see this as opportunity in an odd way. Technology adoption is now by default happening much more quickly. So let’s take advantage of that. How can we expand on what we have already accomplished. Remote working? Check. Remote dating? Check. Remote weddings? Check. Remote funerals? Check (sadly). Remote family dinners? Check! I really like this one. I have had more family dinners than I did in the last 10 years with my parents because they are 2500 miles away. And the list goes on.
But let’s focus on what we haven’t really expanded on too much. How do we make our remote productivity and job functions more effective? I was researching as I am wont to do on motivation theory and remote working.
I ran across the Kohler Effect. So, I went back and looked at the first research Kohler Effect. This effect was originally observed and studied in 1927 by industrial psychologist Otto Kohler.
Basically he had 3 people lift weights individually and then conjunctively as a team. He noticed that the weaker team members performed better when they were paired with a stronger team member. https://www.britannica.com/science/Kohler-effect
Later people attempted to identify the why. It is believed that the reasons are twofold. The first is Social Comparison, where team members seem to align themselves in a group by skill or ability. Second, seems to be that knowing a group is dependent on your efforts drives higher performance.
This research showed greater motivation in gender differences and tribal/group orientation. I.e. weak man vs strong woman…the man showed a greater output. Same for when a weak member is cast against a strong member of an opposite group or team. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21808077/
My initial thoughts are that those of us who work or have worked to implement corporate motivational programs, is that this effect is nothing new even though we may not call it the same name. We have been looking at stretch goals, motivation theory, reward mechanisms, and using terms like trophy value and perceived value for many years now.
As Köhler showed in his original work, "the motivation gain is largest when members’ abilities are only moderately different (versus about the same or very different). That fact seems to be due mostly to the social-comparison mechanism. For example, a person will stop comparing himself or herself to others if the others are much more capable than the comparer, because the task of matching or competing will seem unachievable."
So this is where I see some opportunity. Look at the huge success of Peloton. They have motivational leaders all over the world and you can simply jump into the competition from anywhere assuming you have a Peloton. Look at companies like Yo-FI, a virtual wellness system the lets companies bring health and fitness to all their employees anywhere.
We know the Kohler Effect works remotely, Peloton proved it. So let’s keep that in mind when we begin to plan our new incentive programs, build teams to tackle challenges in this new work environment. Let’s make sure we put the right people together not just the ones who are the best. Remember that it is the combination of a team that leads to collective strength.