Google has been headhunting exceptional individuals over the years and spent millions trying to better understand people. Through their incalculable pursue, they’ve collected endless amounts of data. Google created Project Aristotle, it is defined as one of the company’s most interesting initiatives. The purpose of the project is to gather several of Google’s best and brightest to help the organization codify the secrets to team effectiveness.
It‘s been an issue to them why; they wanted to know why some teams excelled while others fell behind.
It is true that not all teams can perform well, though. Before this study, like many other organizations, Google Executives believed that building the best teams meant compiling the best people because the performance of a team depends on its team members. It does makes sense since group of individuals should work together for a common objective to accomplish a complicated task.
The best engineer plus an MBA, throw in a PhD, and there you have it. The perfect team, right? In the words of Julia Rozovsky, Google’s people analytics manager, “We were dead wrong.”
Selected to lead the efforts was Abeer Dubey, Google’s Director of People Analytics (HR). Eager to find the perfect mixture of skills, backgrounds, and traits to engineer super-teams, Dubey recruited statisticians, organizational psychologists, sociologists, engineers, and researchers to help solve the riddle. Included in this all-star lineup was Rozovsky.
A recent study of Google employees rebuffed the idea that the people involved solely lead to the success of a team. Instead, their research suggests that the success of a team is determined by how the team members themselves interact with each other.
Fast forward two years, and Project Aristotle managed to study 180 Google teams, conduct 200-plus interviews, and analyze over 250 different team attributes. Unfortunately though, there was still no clear pattern of characteristics that could be plugged into a dream-team generating algorithm.
As described in an article in The New York Times, it wasn’t until Google started considering some intangibles that things began to fall into place.
“As they struggled to figure out what made a team successful, Rozovsky and her colleagues kept coming across research by psychologists and sociologists that focused on what are known as “group norms” – the traditions, behavioral standards, and unwritten rules that govern how teams function when they gather. Norms can be unspoken or openly acknowledged, but their influence is often profound.”
With new lens and some added direction from a research study on collective intelligence by a group of psychologists from Carnegie Mellon, MIT, and Union College, Project Aristotle’s researchers went back to the drawing board to comb their data for unspoken customs. Specifically, any team behaviors that magnified the collective intelligence of the group.
Rozovsky summarized the five key characteristics of enhanced teams.
Dependability in team members is essential to the success of any team. Team members and meet expectations an b**t time. Dependable team members have a strong sense of responsibility and exercise sound judgment.
2. Structure and clarity
High-performing teams have clear goals. In addition, they also have well-defined roles and execution within the group. In order to succeed independently or within a group, it is essential to set methods and goals that will guide decisions for a team.
3. Meaning of Work
The work has personal significance or positive meaning to each members involved. People are more inclined to dedicate themselves to the work of a team when it shares their same values
The group fundamentally believes their work is purposeful and positively impacts the greater good and what they’re doing matters.
5. Psychological Safety
This pertains to the ability of members of a team to feel comfortable enough with one another. Why? For them to express themselves and take risks in regards to their contributions. A team where members don’t feel comfortable enough to be open or “vulnerable” can only go so far because it can limit the amount of input.
We’ve all been in meetings; due to the fear of seeming incompetent, these have held back questions or ideas. It’s unnerving to feel like you’re in an environment where everything you do or say is under a microscope. But imagine a different setting; a situation in which everyone is safe to take risks, voice their opinions, and ask judgment-free questions. A culture where managers provide air cover and create safe zones so employees can let down their guard. That’s psychological safety.
However, Google found that teams with psychologically safe environments had employees who were less likely to leave, more likely to harness the power of diversity, and ultimately, who were more successful.
Engineering the perfect team is more subjective than we would like. But, focusing on these five components could increase the likelihood of a dream team. Through its research, Google made the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle proud by proving, “The whole can be greater than the sum of its parts.”
Being aware of these keys to the success of a team can make us more aware of how we interact with others and therefore help us work better together, regardless of the diversity of a team.