Who Knew? Round Tables Increase Collaboration & Sense of Belonging

Who knew? All we need to be more productive and to help foster creative collaboration amongst our fellow colleagues is…(insert drum roll here, please)…a round table.

round-table-business-meetingAccording to a recent study, “The Geometry of Persuasion: How Do Seating Layouts Influence Consumers,” conducted by UBC’s Sauder School of Business, participants were asked to sit at either angular tables or round (or oval) tables. They discovered that people who sat at the round or oval tables demonstrated more of a need for a sense of belonging. Conversely, those who sat at the angular tables were more concerned about uniqueness.

Hmm. The professors performing the study took it a step further and wanted to find out how the participants would respond to promotional material while sitting at different shaped tables, and if there would be any difference in reaction. They found that volunteers who were sitting at the round or oval tables “reacted more favourably towards ads that conveyed a sense of belonging, showing groups of family members or friends,” while volunteers at the angular tables “identified more with ads portraying go-getting individuals- ‘maverick’ types.”

This study prompted me to think about the tables we use in our offices here. Our two biggest conference rooms have the angular variety of tables; and somewhere in between those rooms, we have another conference room with a small round table. Does more collaborating happen at that small round table?

Another hmm. The professors of the study concluded that “the shape of a seating arrangement, a subtle environmental cue, can activate fundamental human needs, and these needs in turn affect consumer responses to persuasive messages.”

So what can you take away from this study?

When you need to work collaboratively on a project, consider using a round or oval table for your next meeting. If you have a topic or solution where you are seeking consensus, the simple addition of a round or oval table might just be your tipping point.

To read the GovExec article that inspired this post, click here.

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