Tools: Priming the global mindset

As part of The Studio (BE), we successful gained support from the King Baudouin foundation* with the Urban Ecology Centre and WAUW* to research techniques for establishing a community of temporary building users based on social innovation.  Social innovation? WT* is it?  As described by Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business*, social innovation is “…a novel solution to a social problem that is more effective, efficient, sustainable, or just than current solutions…”.

Our general objective was to create a global mindset while providing a process where the project partners (and other participants) could find their own niche within the ecology of the 22,000 sqm building.  We looked at it in terms of four themes of, which are useful techniques for bringing people together and applicable in may co-creation settings.

1) Construal level theory.

The studio is a place where minds of different backgrounds (social, cultural and manual production) come together in order to create a new stimulating environment for each partner involved. Getting these different minds to mend is never an easy challenge when they have their individual interests at heart. In his famous Robber’s cave experiment, Muzafer Sherif (1) showed that in a competitive context, boy scouts focus on what benefits their own group, but this can change when we redefine ‘their’ group through cooperative goals and the benefits collaboration has in achieving their own goals as well as those of the larger group. Many partners enter the building with an individual mindset, encompassing their own goals and rules, because those are the ones they know best.

2) Mindsets (individual & collective).

Our goal is to create a communal mindset by priming the long term vision for the Studio (one of collaboration, creative solutions, intercultural contact and mutual respect) to which all the partners can attach their own vision and project. While humans are very good at collaborating, collective thinking – being on the same wave length – does not come naturally. Psychological research (2) has shown that priming a particular mindset, with symbols or through discussion, can be a contagious method to help process information. When a communal mindset is primed, participants are more likely to think in terms of collaboration and achieving the collective goals as well as their individual goals.

3) Connecting to a space and a community. 

Additionally, it’s important to create a relationship between the partners and the space they’ll be working in. Objects and spaces help us organise our memories, experiences and emotions (3). Our relationships to objects and spaces change when we make use of them. Consider the feeling you experience when you can’t feel your wallet in your pocket, or when you leave your home the last time before moving into your new home. By making people use the space in a constructive way, we’re creating a psychological structure that helps the partners reason in terms of creating, collaborating and fun. In most cases the project partners bring a certain background to the project and certain ambitions (conscious or perceived), however their actual projects will change subject to the way they position themselves within the ecology of the building.

4) Modes of communication and expression.

Finally, it is essential in group work to honour different types of communication and expression from verbal to nonverbal and visual communication.  This is particularly important when dealing with participants from mixed backgrounds, with different mother-tongues, with very different world-views and with recent working experience.


(1)  Sherif, M.; Harvey, O.J.; White, B.J.; Hood, W. & Sherif, C.W. (1961). Intergroup Conflict and Cooperation: The Robbers Cave Experiment. Norman, OK: The University Book Exchange. pp. 155–184.

(2)  Trope, Y., & Liberman, N. (2010). Construal-level theory of psychological distance. Psychological review, 117(2), 440.

(3)  Squire, L. R. (1992). Memory and the hippocampus: a synthesis from findings with rats, monkeys, and humans. Psychological review, 99(2), 195.