Harnessing the Power of Wonder


Is your team’s productivity grinding to a halt? If so, it could be because the atmosphere you’ve cultivated at work is completely mindless and workers are increasingly disengaged.

Even if your team is struggling to get things done, you can take comfort in the fact you’re not alone. According to a recent Gallup study, nearly 70% of U.S. professionals aren’t engaged with their work. This, of course, is a very serious problem. Not only are disengaged employees considerably less productive than their more engaged peers, they’re also unable to produce high-quality work simply because they’re not too interested in their responsibilities.

Is your team measurably disengaged? The good news is that things don’t have to stay that way. Believe it or not, you have the power to change your team’s attitude. You might just have to make some small tweaks to the way you go about doing things.

We all know what mindfulness is. It’s a positive, heightened awareness of your environment and thoughts. But for most of us, mindfulness is only something we focus on internally. Mindfulness teaches us to focus on the present moment and be here now in our own heads.

But what if mindfulness was something that could be cultivated in a larger setting? Could your team’s collective attention to mindfulness reengage employees with their work?


The Attraction of Wonder

Spend all day by yourself trying to tackle work or come up with breakthrough ideas, and maybe you’ll get lucky and have something to show for your time. Surround yourself with the right people, on the other hand, and suddenly innovation becomes that much easier.

Mabel Dodge understood this perfectly. After leaving Manhattan for the allure of Taos, N.M. in the 1920s, Dodge met a man and built what would become a center for creatives, a structure that’s now called the Mabel Dodge Luhan House. Georgia O’Keefe, Ansel Adams, D.H. Lawrence and Carl Jung were among the famous thinkers and creative professionals who spent time under Dodge’s roof. Able to bounce ideas off one another and offer tips and pointers, these legends transformed Taos into the center for creatives in the southwestern United States.

During the Renaissance, the Medici family similarly pooled skilled artists and craftsmen from many disciplines into contact in a leisure environment. They understood that magic could result from brilliant minds coming together without the pressure of a having a project to do. In many instances, the Medicis’ artists didn’t impart direct skills on one another. Instead, they gave each other new and fresh perspectives—which ultimately contributed to innovation in their respective fields.

There’s a reason we all know the saying “two minds are better than one.” In many instances, it’s true. You just need the right minds coming from the right places.

The right energy and the right resources in the right environment is the key to productivity. But if your team has been less than inspired of late, how can you go about instilling that sense of wonder in them?

1. Become a better listener

You can’t create an atmosphere that inspires wonder and intrigue if you’re constantly talking about yourself and ignoring what the other members of your team are trying to say. Nobody likes the guy or gal who just nods along but is obviously not paying attention.

To instill a sense of wonder among your team, you first need to become a better listener. Put away your smartphone when your peers are talking to you. Stop responding to your email when your colleagues are brainstorming ideas in a team meeting. Maintain eye contact as much as you comfortably can, and repeat what you’ve heard so you know you’re on the same page (and the speaker does, too). From time to time, leave the office altogether and have a walking meeting.

The better your team listens, the more wonder will be in the air.

2. Understand ‘wonder talk’ and use it

Remember being a kid and lying on your back and looking at the stars? When you saw how truly big the universe is and took it all in, you’d often be overcome by a sense of wonder and astonishment. Maybe you’d ask the person next to you a deep question about life. Your brain would be firing on all cylinders as you tried to figure everything out.

These kinds of conversations are built with what’s called “wonder talk.” If you want to take your team to the next level, those are the kinds of conversations you should try to be having—the ones that you never want to end.

How do you go about doing that?

When you converse with other members of the team, try to open up instead of sizing up your conversation partner. Don’t dismiss anything a team member is saying. Think of a conversation like a volley, and try to keep the volley moving. Have each idea lead to the next. You never know when you’re only one idea away from a breakthrough.

3. Never stop learning

With every new topic you learn, sustaining wonder talk becomes easier. For example, if a coder is talking about a new open source project and, specifically, how it’s written, you may be able to take the conversation to the next level if you yourself knew how to code, too. This doesn’t mean that your unfamiliarity with coding automatically prevents you from having a great conversation. But suffice it to say, the more things you know, the easier it will be to engage with your team.

That being the case, you’d be wise to teach yourself everything you possibly can—well, at least everything that you’re interested in learning. By doing so, you’ll be much better prepared to respond to any conversation that comes your way.

Not sure how to learn new things? Maybe you need to learn about learning first. There are a number of free resources on the internet that can help you become a better-rounded individual without having to reach into your wallet.

How can you expect your team to reach its full potential if everyone is bored at the office every day? Building the best products you’re capable of building starts with having a high level of excitement. Create an atmosphere of wonder. Not only will your employees not mind showing up to work every morning, they’ll push hard to become the best versions of themselves. Wonder, as you will find out, feeds off itself and can grow exponentially. You just have to let it.

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