Could Religious Rituals Teach Your Team How To Get In Sync?

Jarret Jackson
3 min readApr 29, 2022
Chanting, swaying and mindfulness meditation improve synchrony | Photo by cottonbro on Pexels

Team rituals are nothing new. The “ unity breakdown” that sports teams use, for example, has team members interlocking arms in a huddle while swaying and chanting in response to questions posed by their leader. As David DeSteno, professor of psychology at Northeastern University, notes, in his book How God Works: The Science Behind the Benefits of Religion, these types of synchronizing actions appear in many religions — from the chanting of Buddhists and Hindus to the kneeling of Christians and Muslims to the swaying of Jews during prayer. The benefits are to unite and connect us. So why don’t we have more of these practices in our offices as we try to create high-performing teams?

Synchrony Improves Teamwork

In a recent article in Wired, adapted from his book, DeSteno describes an experiment where strangers were paired up across a table wearing headphones and asked to tap a sensor each time they heard a tone. When the tone was given to the pair at the same time (so they would tap the sensor at the same time), they developed a degree of synchrony, the connection between individuals that is rooted in simultaneous actions (like walking together in step). The control pair received tones at different times, so they did not sync up with their partners. Those who developed synchrony reported “feeling more connection with and compassion for their partner.” That’s an important component of relationship-building.

In a second experiment, when one partner was asked to take on a more challenging task, half of the individuals who developed synchrony with their partner in the first experiment took it upon themselves to help out. In comparison, only 18% of those who did not sync up with their partners jumped in to help. Isn’t that the kind of teamwork we are all trying to encourage?

Mindfulness is for Teams Too

Mindfulness and mindfulness meditation, rooted in Indian Buddhist tradition, have been taught in leading companies from Google to Ford to my former employer, Fidelity Investments, for years. Mindfulness can help individuals learn how to better focus on tasks in an effort to achieve a “ flow” state. But the benefits of mindfulness go beyond the desk. Studies have shown mindfulness improves…

Jarret Jackson

I write about strategy, adaptive leadership and managerial psychology.