I have many times thought about how we as humans interact and how different the outcome can be.
This goes for both professional and private interactions.
Sometimes you just feel that magic happen. You know the feeling when everybody just work together in harmony achieving amazing results.
Time flies and you almost feel high, never get tired and full of energy.
Other times it’s like you are stuck in mud and don’t move an inch despite how much energy you add.
I have many times tried to find a model that makes it easy to predict the outcome of human interactions but never found any good one.
Yes, it’s easy to detect that it’s easier if everybody share the same idea, vision or target but what are the underlaying reasons we feel so light and full of energy sometimes and other times drained on that same energy, resulting in that our will to achieve something drops.
A while ago I watched a car show where they discussed how many G-forces you could get exposed to when corning with different cars.
Then it struck me, perhaps you can use the laws of physics to predict the outcome of human interactions?
I think we actually can. However, before we move on to that let’s go through some basics in physics so we all are on the same page.
Basic physics about energy and force
Energy cannot be destroyed
Anyone who have studied some basic physics know that energy cannot be destroyed. Energy can only convert to other forms.
Example : A car engine converts chemical energy in gasoline and oxygen into thermal energy which is transformed into the mechanical energy. That mechanical energy accelerates the vehicle and which increase the vehicle’s kinetic energy.
Applied forces determine the motion
Another known fact in physics is that motion is just force with a direction. Different forces can strengthen each other or neutralise each other, depending on how they are applied to an object.
When trying to predict how an object gets affected by different forces applied to the object you usually draw so called force arrows to represent both the magnitude and direction of the forces.
The arrows can then be used to predict the final motion of the object based on the applied forces. In this example Force 1 is twice as big as Force 2, therefor the final outcome is a motion to the left with half Force 1, since Force 2 neutralise half of Force 1.
As in the car example we saw that energy is used to create force and from the second example we can see that force is used to create motion. So energy is needed to create force, and force is needed to create motion.
So how can we use this knowledge on human relations to predict the direction and power in the motion of the group towards the target and how we will feel?
Human interaction requires energy & force
When we humans interact it’s almost always related to the fact that we want to achieve something together. If we do not want to achieve something together we stay by ourselves, usually re-energising for the next human interaction.
I do not think it’s a coincidence we say I need some alone time to recharge my batteries. It is because human interactions can exhaust our energy.
When we interact to achieve something together we all contribute with energy. The power in that energy coming from each individual is related to how much they care about what the interaction is focused on.
So, a driven person that want something really bad will most likely contribute with more energy than a person who doesn’t care.
So when you want to achieve a result it will most likely be easier if you can assemble more energy, or?
Since the energy needs to convert into force before it can create motion we also need to give the energy the right direction to gain the targeted results.
So when applying the energy we get force. You can then use tools to leverage the force to gain more strength. In the physical world we sometimes use gears, example on a bicycle to get more motion out of the same force we apply.
In human relations we also use tools to leverage our force. It can be Skill, Experience, Titles etc. that gives us a bigger force to apply even if the energy is lower.
Apply the force in the right direction
So imagine that we want to achieve a specific result and it requires three people who need to interact to achieve this result.
So if all 3 have the same energy and apply the force (will) in the identical direction the combined force (motion/will) will be three times bigger in that direction.
However, if the 3 people point the forces (wills) in complete opposite directions to achieve the same result, the combined force (motion/will) will be zero, i.e. they won’t move any closer to the result/target.
This actually symbolises the importance of interacting with people that share the same passion for achieving the same result. If the people do not share that, the worst case scenario is they start moving backwards compared to their target.
So, when working in small dedicated teams it should in theory be easier to align the forces in the same direction.
In larger organisations it’s more likely to get a spread of the directions and sometimes even in the opposite directions giving a very weak motion towards the target.
This is often the reason why small organisations or teams can be quicker than large equivalents. Because it is easier to aim the force arrows in the same direction and therefore get a bigger motion.
In large organisations it is however more common that the force arrows point in different directions and the motion (summary force) become very weak.
This is also a very important reason why many people feel they have given a lot of energy but see very little result and after a while give up. This also creates frustration and stress.
By applying force arrows to the people required to achieve specific results you can actually predict the direction and motion of the work before it even gets started.
Force = Energy (Drive/will) * Leverage (Skill, Title etc.) plus direction (Need/Want/Passion for the result)
What you want when working together are people with high will and skill but at least high will. Want you definitely want to avoid are people with low will and high skill (leverage), since they most likely will generate a strong force in the opposite direction of the result.
It is also important to maintain the will for those that already have it. So they do not fall into the lower levels of will.
You not only loose their force in the right direction, you actually get hit by a double effect, since their force most likely will point in the opposite direction. Because of their skill they have leverage on their force, their negative impact on the result will be much more sever than a person with low skill (low leverage/low force)
This is why it is important to have everyone wanting to achieve the result. If not, even the members that want it most will eventually give up and get lower will (if the motion in the preferred direction is not strong enough).
How to create a strong motion in the right direction
As we have learned from physics all the forces need to point in the same direction to get the most powerful motion possible towards the result we want to accomplish.
This can only be achieved if everyone involved has bought in on the reason why you want to achieve the result and that they also gain from being part of achieving this result. (Emotionally, monetary, reputation etc.)
The last decade it has been very popular to apply Simon Sinek’s golden circle model (Why, How, What) to anything we undertake to accomplish. Without a strong Why, the force and later also the motion will be weaker or even almost zero.