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Google study identifies the top 5 ingredients that make a dream team

Google launched an initiative called Project Aristotle two years ago wanting to know why some teams excelled while others fell behind. 

Why Project Aristotle ? It was he that proved that  

“The whole can be greater than the sum of its parts.”

They studied 180 Google teams, conduct 200-plus interviews, and analyze over 250 different team attributes to come up with a clear pattern of characteristics that could be plugged into a dream-team generating algorithm.

Do the best teams mean that you have to have the brightest and the best?

 It makes sense. The best engineer plus an MBA, throw in a PhD, and there you have it. 

The perfect team, right? 

Julia Rozovsky, Google’s people analytics manager –  “We were dead wrong.”

So what were the perfect mixture of skills, backgrounds, and traits of rockstar teams, 

It wasn’t until Google started considering some intangibles that things began to fall into place.

Group norms was a key 

“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 a new lens and some added direction from a research on collective intelligence (abilities that emerge out of collaboration) 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 outlined the five key characteristics of dream  teams.

1. Dependability.

Team members get things done on time and meet expectations.

2. Structure and clarity.

High-performing teams have clear goals, and have well-defined roles within the group.

3. Meaning.

The work has personal significance to each member.

4. Impact.

The group believes their work is purposeful and positively impacts the greater good.

Yes, that’s four, not five. The last one stood out from the rest:

5. Psychological Safety.

We’ve all been in meetings and, due to the fear of seeming incompetent, have held back questions or ideas. I get it. 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.

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.

  • Who would be the 10 people in your dream team? 
  • People that you could trust and feel safe with? 
  • Has your product got clarity?
  • Does it have meaning or a purpose? 

Posted on March 7, 2019

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