From The Frontal Cortex:
A forthcoming paper by Michael Kraus and Dacher Keltner at UC-Berkeley investigates the correlation between “tactile communication” and success in the NBA. In essence, the paper demonstrates that “touchier” teams – and this includes everything from pats on the ass to high-fives – are also more likely to win. (The two touchiest teams during the 2008-2009 season were the Lakers and the Celtics, while the touchiest player was Kevin Garnett, followed by Chris Bosh.)
I’d suggest that successful workplaces engage in a related kind of interaction, in which people are forced to interact with each other, both literally and figuratively. Maybe we’re talking to a colleague at the bathroom sink, or eating lunch at the same cafeteria table, but those are the kinds of “touches” that lead, over time, to better team performance. (I’ve got a hunch, for instance, that more successful labs have more crowded coffee rooms.) The same logic might also explain why people who have never worked together before rarely create successful Broadway plays: they’re like NBA teams that don’t know each well enough to exchange fist-bumps. Or why denser cities, which promote more random interactions, are also more innovative. The point is that the the most productive groups share a certain intimacy, which allows them to fully benefit from their different skill sets.
I give it a few months before a management book encourages a “culture of fondling” in the workplace. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, people.