Agile Forest

Find your path to agility with Renee Troughton

squeeze me

Hugs are free!

I cannot take credit for a sassy title. In a fantastic realisation by a number of Social Neuroscience experts at the National University of Singapore (Annett Schirmer, Keng Soon Teh, Shuo Wang, Ranjith Vijayakumar, April Ching, Darshini Nithianantham, Nicolas Escoffier & Adrian David Cheok) have proof that physical touch influences our ability to empathize with and support the toucher.

You can checkout the detail in their paper, but what I found interesting is that even a mechanical touch triggered this behaviour. A single audio tone has no improvement, but I wonder if certain melodies would?

From an Agile perspective – what can we learn from this? Harassment and discrimination laws discourage the use of inappropriate touching. This has pretty much lead to a social behaviour of fear to touch in case of it being considered inappropriate. But now we know that touching can enhance our ability to both empathize and to support, should we not try to utilise this?

What if we had a team agreement to hold hands whilst doing a daily standup? Or take it back to basics – really do a Scrum ‘huddle’ at our stand up.

What forms of appropriate touching can we introduce in our Agile practices to utilise this further?

4 thoughts on “Squeeze me, but don’t tease me

  1. Interesting stuff. Thought you might be interested in this post as well, which highlights some more negative aspects of touching:

  2. ken says:

    Renee, people on my teams know (or learn pretty quickly) that I am a pretty passionate guy and that I care very deeply… not in an angry, shouting sort of way (except once, anyway)… but more in a deeply concerned way that I also align with respect and a high level of trust. From time to time, I get caught up in a vulnerability because of the depth I have to care for my teams… and we get a lot done.

    The boundaries people hold up do get in the way sometimes, but having no boundaries is probably not a good idea either. Your ideas about holding hands or “huddling” in a stand-up are nothing professional sports teams don’t do… so they might meet in the middle of hugging versus no touching at all.

    Another recommendation I have is to have people stand-up in different places from time to time… stand next to somebody new for a change… move your work stations around a little. Spend time together outside on lunch breaks or train for a 5k together. Though those may not be physical touching activities, they can be emotionally touching.

    As I initially read this, I thought you were stepping out on a limb a little with a “touchy” topic (sorry for the pun). I am glad you did, though, because if we spend 1/3 of our lives at work, it would be great to keep in mind the personal relationships and trust we should not take for granted there.


  3. Juanita says:

    Hi Renee

    Great post!

    Actually, I was wanting to get in touch with you but can’t find your email addy. Hopefully you can get mine from this post.

    (Feel free to delete this comment!)


  4. Bob Allen says:

    “What if we had a team agreement to hold hands whilst doing a daily standup?” just one thought: Flu season. I’ve had teams specifically site this concern when the team practice was to pass around small stuffed toy as a speaking token.

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