Lemmings + Room Dynamics
What really are room dynamics? Here's how I just defined them in a recent focus group.
Positive Room Dynamics:
- Critical Mass
- Tipping Point (Engagement)
- Residual AfterGlow
In positive room dynamics, the room reaches a proper critical mass. Simply put there are enough bodies in the room. No too few. Not too many. In general people tend to describe this subjectively as "full" as opposed to "empty" or "jam-packed." Having reached critical mass, something socially occurs - a tipping point of engagement. It's a bit of a lemming effect. People who usually won't clap, shout, audibly cheer or sing find themselves enraptured in what the larger herd is doing... and they join in. Generally something spiritual happens. A sense of community and intimacy is forged. And from their shared experience together people leave the environment with what I like to call "residual afterglow." Its a sense of positive environmental branding. They leave feeling the place was alive, happening, energetic, etc. Generally they want to come back and bring others with them.
Negative Room Dynamics:
- No Critical Mass
- No Tipping Point
- Negative Social/Environmental Branding
In negative room dynamics, the gathering never reaches a proper critical mass and therefore lacks a tipping point of engagement. People move more into a role of autonomous spectators. On an intrinsic level humans sense the missing level of engagement. They sense isolation all around them and they begin to form negative social/environmental branding.
This dynamic is prevalent in every human gathering. The trick is mastering not only the product "on stage" but mastering the environmental/social product as well. If you're feeling as if your meeting or gathering is suffering from negative room dynamics, try moving. Try a different location on campus. Try renting a new space off campus. Discover what the new location does for the vibrancy of your social interactions. I suggest you time your move with a special initiative or date on your calendar. Leaders less savvy to social impacts often aren't "sold" on the power of room dynamics. So tie your creative initiative to some additional values your group is trying to achieve. Whatever you do, do not underestimate the power of where and how you meet. Positive room dynamics are huge in moving isolated beings into energetic communities.