Article: What Google Learned From Its Quest to Build the Perfect Team, NY Times

Business team

Review

This is just a bit longer article on NY Times but it has some very important lessons I thought should be noted and shared.

tl;dr

Create a safe, respectful environment where everyone feels safe to talk and contribute. If this is done well, you can expect all team members speak roughly the same proportion. Team members must be able to talk about hard topics and feel heard.

Summary

The researchers eventually concluded that what distinguished the “good” teams from the dysfunctional groups was how teammates treated one another. The right norms, in other words, could raise a group’s collective intelligence, whereas the wrong norms could hobble a team, even if, individually, all the members were exceptionally bright.

As the researchers studied the groups, however, they noticed two behaviors that all the good teams generally shared. First, on the good teams, members spoke in roughly the same proportion, a phenomenon the researchers referred to as “equality in distribution of conversational turn-taking”.

“As long as everyone got a chance to talk, the team did well,” Woolley said. “But if only one person or a small group spoke all the time, the collective intelligence declined.”

Second, the good teams all had high ‘‘average social sensitivity’’ — a fancy way of saying they were skilled at intuiting how others felt based on their tone of voice, their expressions and other nonverbal cues.

But Google’s data indicated that psychological safety, more than anything else, was critical to making a team work.

What Project Aristotle has taught people within Google is that no one wants to put on a “work face” when they get to the office. No one wants to leave part of their personality and inner life at home. But to be fully present at work, to feel “psychologically safe,” we must know that we can be free enough, sometimes, to share the things that scare us without fear of recriminations. We must be able to talk about what is messy or sad, to have hard conversations with colleagues who are driving us crazy. We can’t be focused just on efficiency. Rather, when we start the morning by collaborating with a team of engineers and then send emails to our marketing colleagues and then jump on a conference call, we want to know that those people really hear us. We want to know that work is more than just labor.

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