The Psychology of Collaboration, seminar by Herman Miller

The Psychology of Collaboration, presented by Bertie van Wyk, based on a paper by Dr. Nigel Oseland back in 2017

Bertie van Wyk [BVW] is a workplace specialist, a communicator on human work insights, across Europe and USA.
Twitter hashtags – @bertievw  @hminsightgroup
If you're a morning person, by 4pm your brain capacity is the same as if you have had 4 units of alcohol.
For an afternoon person, it feel like this in the morning!
So consider that big meeting, schedule it so that morning and evening people can cope.
According to the Leesman Index, 57% of people think that in the office they are productive
Busy is not good, “busy is for losers” according to Bertie [BVW] we can spend up to 42% of our time on email.
However, brainstorming and collaboration adds 35% to the value of our work, but we spend only 7% of our time doing this.
We need to understand the dynamics of interaction versus collaboration. Interaction leads to trust, therefore building trust leads to greater collaboration.

Personality Theories

BVW referred to personality theories, especially by Myers Briggs and Eysenck, with his super traits; sanguine, choleric, phlegmatic, melancholic.
Including the three topical personality trates of Extroverts, introverts, neurotics
Reference to the Big 5 theory of Ocean, http://www.outofservice/bigfive
– All effect how we interact.


– Heterogenous teams perform better than homogenous ones. They challenge each other but develop more unique effective and creative solutions
– Homogenous groups more cohesive but prone to groupthink.

Virtual teams – Videoconferencing

Virtual collaboration, can be difficult!
85% of communication is non verbal. Social connection is so important according to research, so is good coffee.
Interesting statistic that 40% of workers will be freelance by 2020, according to Accenture.
Virtual teams perform worse with little social exchange that inhibits relationships, trust and performance.
Due to reduced communication, tacit knowledge and information display.
Advice – With technology, the camera should be at the same height and frame size, so that people feel equal.
Issue with noise interference of Skype conference calls in the office, problem for work colleagues who can’t help but listen in to conversation.
We are instinctively tune into other people’s one sided conversations.


Arousal theory, illustrated by the inverted U shape, extroverts have low level of arousal, stimulus, need excitement to lead to higher productivity.
The more complex the task, the quieter the environment needed. Low key.
BVW paused to refer to Susan Cain, author of key work call “The Quiet”
See her video, from Ted talk
This awareness must be taken into account for the design for a variety of spaces, with different zones; just see who many staff use headphones…
Consideration – Environmental psychology, brief reference to the Osmond categories;
Osmond (1957) differentiated the environmental settings in two distinct categories — the sociopetal and the sociofugal settings
Consideration – Evolutionary psychology, ref.
We have evolved for survival and wellbeing
Daylight, ref. to an unnamed USA study which demonstrated that a person with a window view at work will naturally sleep for 46 mins more per night!
Creative Commons CC0
So our exposure to daylight will impact on our sleeping pattern.
Ref. briefly to Well being, especially good air quality, and Biophilic deign.
BVW stated that we don’t take enough breaks, unrefined statistic that the most effective people work for 52 mins with 17′ break.
Breakout spaces, HM ‘cove’,
70% collaboration happens at the workstation.
This is a terrible statistic, its too noisy, distracting and disruptive for colleagues in the office.
Herman Miller provide solution called the Annex, create a warm up and cool down space, ideally a meeting space for introverts.