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‘Fun’ meetings are more innovative and collaborative

A shared joke can boost team performance for two years, study finds

6 March 2015

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By Manju Manglani, Editor (@ManjuManglani)

People are more likely to propose and consider new ideas in meetings shortly after sharing humour and laughter, according to new research.

A study of 54 team meetings at two German companies found that meetings are more effective and productive when a positive mood and playful, open approach is encouraged.

"Humor patterns triggered positive socioemotional communication, procedural structure, and new solutions," the researchers said in their paper.

"At the team level, humor patterns (but not humor or laughter alone) positively related to team performance, both immediately and 2 years later."

They found that, shortly after sharing laughter in a meeting, teams were more likely to engage in productive, open behaviours. These include proposing new ideas, asking questions, offering praise and encouraging participation by others.

"This fits with the broaden-and-build model of positive states, where a good mood opens us up to other people and different ideas - all useful in a collaborative context," commented Alex Fradera, a member of the British Psychological Society.

The research found that sharing humour in a meeting can have a long-term impact on team performance.

Team supervisors rated performance immediately following the meeting and two years later.

Interestingly, performance ratings were higher when there were more instances of humour resulting in laughter, rather than when there was humour or laughter alone.

"The repeated importance of humour in tandem with laughter suggest that it's not purely elevated mood or a quality of wannabe jokers, but a more dynamic give and take between team members that makes the difference," said Fradera.

Team-level job insecurity climate was identified as a boundary condition at both time points.

The research found that, in low job-insecurity conditions, humour and laughter improved performance. However, in high job-insecurity conditions, humour patterns did not positively relate to team performance.

The study was led by Nale Lehmann-Willenbrock, assistant professor in social and organisational psychology at VU University Amsterdam, and Joseph A Allen, assistant professor in industrial and organisational psychology at the University of Nebraska.

Their key findings are published in 'How fun are your meetings? Investigating the relationship between humor patterns in team interactions and team performance' in the Journal of Applied Psychology.




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