The quality of our Relational Network is the strongest indicator of success, following a 75 year-long Harvard study.

by Didier Marlier on Thursday January 7th, 2016

Looking for an inspiring topic which would help us with our New-Year’s resolutions, I fell on this very recent (November 2015) TED speech from Harvard Professor and psychiatrist Robert Waldinger. He is the 4th director of a 75 year-long study on adult development. During those years, the researchers tracked the lives of 724 men, of which 60 are still alive and actively participating in the study. And the study now goes on into studying the 2’000+ children of those men. The initial group of volunteers was equally split between Harvard sophomores (students in their 2nd year) and children from the poorest neighbourhood of Boston.

If you are as impatient as I usually am, even with a 12’47’’ TED clip, fast forward to the results of the study (6’ 11’’): “The clearest message that we get from this 75 years study is this: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier… period!” Dr. Waldinger still adds that the three main lessons learned, through the research, about relationships were that:

  • Social connections are really good for us whilst loneliness kills
  • It is not the number of relationships that matters but their quality
  • Good relationships also protect our brains:

I could have stopped there and left it to you to be inspired or not by this but I felt the need to go further and link this with other points already mentioned in this blog:

  • Epigenetics: Joel de Rosnay is one of France’s most admired scientists. In the interview here below, he brilliantly explains (in 3 minutes!) what is Epigenetics and how it will revolutionize our lives (Please find on this link, the English translation of De Rosnay’s interview). For him, we can trigger the positive expression of our genes through five factors, one of them being “if you have a supportive personal and social network”… This seems to add credibility to the Harvard study.

  • One of the most successful posts (measured by number of readers on the blog and on LinkedIn, as well as by the number of mails received about it) that I published mentioned that “Purpose, connections and relationships” would be the pillars of the agile organizations of the future. The clip shown in the post, attempts to demonstrate how, through relationships, randomly, “collective intelligence” gets created.
  • Meg Wheatley, in her seminal article, “The Irresistible Future of Organizing” also intuited that relationships will be fundamental to the organizations of the future.
  • Lynda Gratton, an interesting blend of psychologist and strategist, mentioned in one of our blogposts, makes an interesting distinction between “Bonding” and “Bridging”. Whereas the first term is about feeling safe, closing-off by joining others against a common enemy, “Bridging” is far less natural, more risky and demanding. It is about reaching out, lowering the guard, taking a personal risk. Tonight, at the moment I write this article, the New-Year vacation is drawing to its end. I live in a ski resort and have rented a flat for my daughter and I (more convenient than our magnificent chalet, rented to an ex-world champion of Formula 1). During the holiday, I have been shocked to meet in the corridors of our aparthotel, tens of people who would rather look at their feet than say “Hi”… The difficulty to make oneself vulnerable, to reach out for an unknown human being was amazing… But, for Gratton, bridging is a critical condition fr a success and results driven corporate culture.

I finally would like to leave you with what Brazilian three times CEO of the year, Sergio Chaia, taught me: Each year, he sets himself three personal objectives, themes, behaviours and attitudes to work on. Each morning, a bit like a mantra, he reflects on those three objectives and challenges himself to reach them.

What about setting ourselves the goal of building relationships at work, with our clients, with our subordinate, with our colleagues or our suppliers? What about looking at people in the eyes and simply say “Good morning!” when we enter our building in the morning? I never forgot the story of this Brazilian CEO, famous for his capacity to engage his people and read the mood of his organization as no others would… He was simply taking the elevator three times every morning and informally chatting with people in the gigantic lift… It made him a remarkable leader.

Enjoy 2016 which I wish you to be wonderfully connected and relational! It will do wonders for your business practice and for your own personal health…

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