WHAT MAKES A SUCCESSFUL TEAM? GOOGLE FINDS OUT
The study has been led by Director of People Analytics at Google, Abeer Dubey. He set the research team’s efforts to find the perfect mixture of traits, backgrounds, and skills, to build super-teams. In order to find the answers, Dubey recruited researchers, engineers, sociologists, psychologists and statisticians.
As explained in an article in The New York Times, things began to fall into place only after Google started considering some intangibles. The research group came across studies by sociologists and psychologists focused on “group norms” – the unwritten rules, behavioral standards, and traditions that govern how teams function. No matter if these norms are openly acknowledged or unspoken, their influence is most often very profound.
With some added direction and new lens from a study on abilities emerging our of collaboration and collective intelligence performed by a group of psychologists from Union College, MIT, and Carnegie Mellon, researchers involved in Google’s Project Aristotle combed their data for unspoken customs. These unspoken customs are team behaviors that can magnify the group’s collective intelligence.
According to the findings of the study, these are the five key characteristics of successful teams:
1. Dependability – this helps team members to meet expectations and get things done on time.
2. Structure and clarity – the best teams, those that are high-performing, have their members following well-defined roles within the group, and aim to reach some clear goals.
3. Meaning – the work of the team and its goals has personal significance and meaning to each team member.
4. Impact – the team trusts that their work positively impacts the greater good and is purposeful.
5. Psychological Safety – everyone in the team feels safe to ask judgment-free questions, voice their opinions, and to take risks. Of course, not all team environments are psychological safe. There are meetings were team members held back their ideas or questions due to their fear of seeming incompetent. There are some working environments where you feel like everything you say or you do is studied under a microscope.
Psychological safety is a totally different setting. It is a corporation culture where managers create safe zones and provide cover so employees can feel safe and, therefore, can let down their guard. Google found that psychological safe environments created in teams can lead to employees less likely to leave. These teams are able to leverage the power of diversity and to become, ultimately, more successful.
These findings of Google’s Project Aristotle are not based on clear quantitative data and do not provide a solid quantitative framework for team success solutions. However, focusing on these five components found by Google’s study can increase the chances that you will build a successful team.