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Google Unlocks the Secret to Effective Teams

July 24th, 2017

team work illustrationOne of the many puzzles in corporate America has been trying to understand why some teams are more effective than others.

Common sense -- gut feeling, really -- would say it's the teams with the sharpest, smartest people. But the evidence is strong that those teams don't always come out as winners. So a few years back, Google pulled together a team of its own smartest and brightest to crack the code of creating effective teams.

After two years crunching all sorts of data, Project Aristotle as the effort was dubbed, was nowhere. Then serendipitously, the team across research by psychologists and sociologists into "group norms," and one that found "evidence of a general collective intelligence factor that explains a group’s performance on a wide variety of tasks."

With that the Google group went back to the massive data it had accumulated looking for the intangibles -- the behaviors and group customs -- that accounted for success.

One important component, which we first blogged about last year, is psychological safety. What that means is that when team members feel they can share without fear of embarrassment or rejection, and are sensitive to each other's moods and emotional state, they are more productive and most often successful.

As an article about the project in Inc. observes, that may be the most important characteristic of successful teams. The article details four more:

  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."

Image: Sira Anamwong /

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