Cooperation in small groups

“When we talk about courage, we think it’s going against an enemy with a machine gun,” Cooper says. “The real courage is seeing truth and speaking the truth to each other. People never want to be the person that says, ‘Wait a second, what’s really going on here?’ But inside the squadron, that is the culture, and that’s why we’re successful.”

Ref: The Culture Code, Daniel Coyle

The Vulnerability Loop

Imagine you and a stranger ask each other the following two sets of questions.

Set A

  • What was the best gift you ever received and why?
  • Describe the last pet you owned.
  • Where did you go to high school? What was your high school like?
  • Who is your favorite actor or actress?

Set B

  • If a crystal ball could tell you the truth about yourself, your life, the future, or anything else, what would you want to know?
  • Is there something you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?
  • What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?
  • When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?

At first glance, the two sets of questions have a lot in common. Both ask you to disclose personal information, to tell stories, to share. However, if you were to do this experiment, you would notice two differences. The first is that as you went through Set B, you would feel a bit more apprehensive. Your heart rate would increase. You would be more uncomfortable. You would blush, hesitate, and perhaps laugh out of nervousness. (It is not easy, after all, to tell a stranger something important you’ve dreamed of doing all your life.)

The second difference is that Set B would make you and the stranger feel closer to each other – around 24 percent closer than Set A, according to experimenters. While Set A allows you to stay in your comfort zone, Set B generates confession, discomfort, and authenticity that break down barriers between people and tip them into a deeper connection. While Set A generates information, Set B generates something more powerful: vulnerability.

Ref: The Culture Code, Daniel Coyle

Embrace fun

The obvious one is still worth mentioning, because laughter is not just laughter; it’s the most fundamental sign of safety and connection.

Ref: The Culture Code, Daniel Coyle


In our industry people invest in what they already perceive as valuable. At Quantasy we have a different perspective on what valuable means. We value culture and the people who create it. We value real stories of struggle, perseverance, and triumph no matter where they come from. Our ultimate goal is to disrupt the industry by shifting the existing power dynamics and funneling resources to creators of all kinds. We want our work to matter, not just to our clients, but in the world at large.

Magical feedback

Researchers discovered that one particular form of feedback boosted student effort and performance so immensely that they deemed it “magical feedback.” Students who received it chose to revise their papers far more often than students who did not, and their performance improved significantly. The feedback was not complicated. In fact, it consisted of one simple phrase.

I’m giving you these comments because I have very high expectations and I know you can reach them.

That’s it. Just nineteen words. None of these words contain any information on how to improve. Yet they are powerful because they deliver a burst of belonging cues. Actually when you look more closely at the sentence, it contains these separate cues:

  1. You are part of this group.
  2. This group is special; we have high standards here.
  3. I believe you can reach those standards.

These signals provide a clear message that lights up the unconscious brain: Here is a safe place to give effort.

Ref: The Culture Code, Daniel Coyle

Belonging cues language

Belonging cues are behaviors that create safe connection in groups. They include, among others, proximity, eye contact, energy, mimicry, turn taking, attention, body language, vocal pitch, consistency of emphasis, and whether everyone talks to everyone else in the group. Like any language, belong cues can’t be reduced to an isolated moment but rather consist of steady pulse of interactions within a social relationship. Their function is to answer the ancient ever-present questions glowing in our brains: Are we safe here? What’s our future with these people? Are there dangers lurking?

Belonging cues posses three basic qualities:

  1. Energy: They invest in the exchange that is occuring.
  2. Individualization: They treat the person as unique and valued.
  3. Future orientation: They signal the relationship will continue.

Ref: The Culture Code, Daniel Coyle

Successful culture interaction patterns

The pattern was located not in the big things but in little moments of social connection. These interactions are consistent whether the group was a military unit or a movie studio or an inner-city school. Here’s a list:

  • Close physical proximity, often in circles
  • Profuse amounts of eye contact
  • Lots of short, energetic exchanges (no long speeches)
  • High levels of mixing, everyone talks to everyone
  • Few interruptions
  • Lots of questions
  • Intensive, active listening
  • Humor, laughter
  • Small, attentive courtesies (thank-yous, opening doors, etc.)

Ref: The Culture Code, Daniel Coyle