Why you should care
Because who doesn’t want to know whom they should work with for better, more creative results?
You’re looking to hire creative team players. You’ve asked all the right interview questions, and your top job candidates have answered in ways that have you envisioning all the profits they’ll bring in for you.
But every manager has seen it — the seemingly ideal hire who turns out to mesh poorly with the team and leaves shortly afterward. The one who kept thinking inside the box, not outside of it.
But maybe there’s a way to suss out those perfect fits that goes beyond Monster.com questionnaires. New research from Stanford University suggests that a video game entertainment system and a talented IT director could put you ahead of the game.
Researchers have embarked on an ambitious series of studies to quantify our nonverbal communication and hopefully use those measurements to our advantage.
For a study on creativity, the scientists repurposed two Microsoft Kinect systems to track 24 body measurements and asked 160 study subjects to interact in pairs — to teach and to learn. The researchers sought answer to questions such as: Are their bodies in tune? Are they conducive to creativity? Is the lesson sinking in?
The more in sync the subjects’ head movements were, the more creative ideas they found.
The big question is: By quantifying body language, “can you get deeper into understanding the mental state?” says Jeremy Bailenson, director of Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab. We can fake answers to questions to mask our true feelings, but it’s a lot harder to fake our unconscious bodily reactions.
The researchers even showed a correlation between a teacher’s irregular movements and poor test scores. “When I teach, I pace the entire time,” Bailenson says. “This data is showing that this is probably not a great strategy.”
A second study examined idea generation, asking couples to brainstorm water-conservation ideas. The more in sync the subjects’ head movements were, the more creative ideas they found.
So if a work project isn’t going as well as planned, perhaps the answer isn’t banging a head against the wall or yelling at your poor employees. Perhaps the answer is switching up the team. Instead of matching person A and B, switch it up with person C. Check their body language for signs of creativity as they work together.
Maybe tracking body language measurements could eventually lead to a new way of interviewing potential hires or setting up workplace teams.
“Imagine trying to hire pairs to work on a project,” Bailenson said. “Give your dozen candidates a two-minute test to see which pairs synchronize and which ones don’t. So now you’ve got a basically innovative team detector.”
And that could prove priceless.