What has a tribe in the furthest reaches of the Amazon jungle and a team of professionals in a CBD office got in common?
Not much on the face of it, but the deeper we go the more we see the human connections that apply to both. Groups of people anywhere have to find ways of working best together – whether that is for a hunt to be successful or for team and organisational targets to be met.
Every person in the workplace, and outside of it (think families, clubs, sports teams, schools and so on), is a member of at least one ‘tribe’ where they need to work together with other people for the common benefit.
It is reasonable to suppose that each of these ‘indigenous’ settings must share some common requirements that go towards our tribes being successful. So what are they?
Needs within the Tribe
The recent findings of neuroscience, notably from work between the Neuropower Group and the University of California, have led to the identification of six requirements that are common to individuals within teams, and can be considered the ‘drivers’ or ‘motivators’ of successful performance in team environments.
These are essentially ‘needs’ that sit behind human behaviour and, when present, lead to better outcomes in terms of performance and satisfaction levels.
A brief summary of each of these follows:
This covers the brain’s need to be a valued member of a human group and to relate to other members in it. In tribal psychology, implicit cultural values, beliefs, attitudes, taboos, punishment and rewards, are all embedded in each child early on. Relatedness brings feelings of safety and cohesion. It is driven by our personal values, and relates to the rules that we were taught as children, symbolising the part of our mind that thinks as a member of the collective-our team, family or tribe – but is often outside of our conscious awareness.
This is the brain’s need to understand and express all emotions. It helps us remember what happens to us emotionally so that we keep doing what we enjoy and stop doing what causes us pain. When functioning well, it fosters spontaneity, experimentation, lateral thinking and fun. In tribal psychology this strong human need can be seen in how tribes the world over developed efficient ways of encouraging and rewarding individual and collective expression through dance, song, poetry, arts, spiritual rites and so on.
Leading the Pack
This is the brain’s need to attain higher status through individual pursuit. It enables us to step outside of the habitual process of automatic behaviour into the external world to get what we individually want. It is the seat of motivation, drive and ego, where we break old habits and enter new territory, leading the way, with energy, independence and a sense of personal accomplishment. While it can become unhealthy if it dominates at the expense of team or tribe goals, it needs to be managed and not ignored: that’s why every tribe on the planet incorporates systems that allow the individual to achieve personal goals that in turn raise the esteem of the tribe as a whole.
This is the part of heart-brain network that needs to feel and empathise with others by attuning to their experiences and understanding their thoughts and feelings. This leads to real and meaningful connections and minimises prejudice, misunderstanding and the resulting problems. It promotes healthy and authentic relationships. Within the context of tribal empowerment, qualities such as empathy, solidarity, acceptance and human regard have long been taught – both for living and non living things.
Seeing the Facts
This is the brain’s need to objectively see evidence of the lived experience. Visual intelligence draws on our brain’s ability to recognise and learn patterns and recall factual information. We want to understand the world through quantifiable facts and the brain loves feedback and having all the relevant information at hand. This is directly linked to our ability to learn. We can see the development of visual art, glyphs, records and patterns in ancient tribes, who found their own ways of documenting information and insights.
Hope for the Future
This is the need of the brain to look to the future with positive expectations, and helps explain why we constantly strive for, and are excited by, new concepts and visions that have not been seen before. It draws on parts of the brain that enable us to be open to a completely new way of looking at things and opens us to higher consciousness. This connects the tribal sages and shamans with forward-thinking business strategists.
As we have seen, the shaman and the strategist are not so far apart as we would imagine; and neither are our workplace teams and ancient tribes. Neuroscience shows that our brains share common needs that all groups require for effective functioning and it is up to the leadership of each organisation to ensure that the people and systems are in place for these needs to be met – or performance will suffer.
The team at NeuroPower is at the forefront of introducing new approaches to organisational development through the findings of neuroscience. We apply them to all types of businesses, developing high performing teams and enhancing leadership. Find out more at our website: