Much to the amusement of my Android colleagues, my gleaming iPhone failed me last week.  The display started to click off unexpectedly in the middle of sending an email or checking my calendar. Everything else about the phone still worked.  Calls continued to come through, apps were still running in the background but without the screen, I could not respond to or affect anything.  I was left powerless.

With some know-how and the right kit, the guys in the Apple store narrowed the problem down to a loose connection within a few minutes and service was quickly restored.

Organisations depend on relationships, much as a piece of tech relies on a whole series of connections.  It’s a given that relationships are inextricably wired into our operations, though perhaps we rarely think about it.  Imagine trying to achieve anything without the necessary human connections in place.  And yet organisations often find themselves with a blank screen, struggling to understand, steer or develop all that is going on in the background.

For me, my iPhone is largely a black box, the interplay of the components remaining mostly mysterious and hidden.  For many managers (even as components in the system), organisational relationships can also be a bit of a black box.

With diagnostics and some technical expertise, the phone was restored to its designed purpose. Likewise, insight into relational dynamics leads to a more smoothly running organisation – restoration of full potential if you like.

A case in point is Google’s three-year quest to build the perfect team by investigating the elements that best predicted effectiveness. They found that group norms of relational things such as interpersonal trust and mutual respect outstripped patterns of personality types and leadership styles. The lead researcher, Julia Rozovsky, observed that “Just having data that proves to people that these things are worth paying attention to sometimes is the most important step in getting them to actually pay attention. Don’t underestimate the power of giving people a common platform and operating language.”

Dr Will Sopwith is a co-founder and Director at Renuma, who help organisations measure and improve their corporate relationships.

Photo: iPhone (by Claudio Schwarz on Flickr)