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Dec 20, 201601:00 PMApplied Mindfulness

with Ed Maxwell

How to win together: What Google learned about successful teams

(page 1 of 2)

Over the past five years, Google conducted a deep dive into what makes the most effective teams. What they discovered will likely come as a surprise to many — psychological confidence is the key indicator of successful teams.

A recent Harvard Business Review study notes that in the last 20 years, “the time spent by managers and employees in collaborative activities has ballooned by 50% or more.” As one of those companies that employs a collaborative approach to work, Google’s focus on optimizing teamwork makes perfect sense.

Google tries to “Google” the answer

Google began its study by examining and analyzing its massive collection of employee data. During a study that Google called “Project Aristotle”, researchers sliced and diced the data in countless ways in search of commonalities between successful teams. However, after examining 180 teams, Google was unable identify the magic trait that determines team effectiveness.

Psychological safety makes teams successful

Stymied through its own research, Google turned to academic studies, where researchers discovered the notion that psychological safety is crucial to team success. After running its own confirmatory study, Google was shocked to find that the degree to which members experienced psychological safety predicted the success of their teams across the company.

Psychological safety was comprised of two key features: 1) team members exhibited empathy toward each other, and 2) members felt comfortable sharing their thoughts, so much so that everyone had roughly equal time to speak in meetings.

The first feature — empathy — unlocks the potential for the second feature, because once a person understands and shares the feelings of others, he or she will want to engage them and encourage them to share their thoughts.

However, cultivating empathy poses a substantial challenge. After all, understanding and sharing the feelings of others seems far too personal to belong in the workplace for many employees.


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