What Google Learned From Its Quest to Build the Perfect Team?

What Google Learned From Its Quest to Build the Perfect Team?

Most Valuable Idea

The most important condition to increase groups performance is psychological safety. Members of the best performing groups at Google 1) spoke roughly the same amount (equal conversational turn-taking) 2) and scored high on social sensitivity test (Reading the Mind in the Eyes test – guessing what people are thinking or feeling from photos of people’s eyes)

"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.’’ On some teams, everyone spoke during each task; on others, leadership shifted among teammates from assignment to assignment. But in each case, by the end of the day, everyone had spoken roughly the same amount. ‘‘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.""

"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. One of the easiest ways to gauge social sensitivity is to show someone photos of people’s eyes and ask him or her to describe what the people are thinking or feeling — an exam known as the Reading the Mind in the Eyes test. People on the more successful teams in Woolley’s experiment scored above average on the Reading the Mind in the Eyes test. They seemed to know when someone was feeling upset or left out. People on the ineffective teams, in contrast, scored below average. They seemed, as a group, to have less sensitivity toward their colleagues."


Project Aristotle has encouraged emotional conversations and discussions of norms among people who might otherwise be uncomfortable talking about how they feel. Part about Sakaguchi, manager who shared that has cancer to open the emotional space in the teams.

Note from me

We all have senses, life-experiences and intelligence. When you compare things together you tend to focus on the differences. That’s why we value “intelligent” people. It’s so much more vital to listen everybody because, in the scale of life, a person's combined experiences, knowledge, perspective is adding a lot more than we realize.

Project Aristotle – Other findings

Google's Re:work website sumarizes biggest findings of Project Aristotle.

1. Psychological Safety.

Of the five key dynamics of effective teams that the researchers identified, psychological safety was by far the most important. Organizational behavioral scientist Amy Edmondson of Harvard first introduced the construct of “team psychological safety” and defined it as “a shared belief held by members of a team that the team is safe for interpersonal risk taking.”

More on psychological safety

Psychological safety refers to an individual’s perception of the consequences of taking an interpersonal risk or a belief that a team is safe for risk taking in the face of being seen as ignorant, incompetent, negative, or disruptive. In a team with high psychological safety, teammates feel safe to take risks around their team members. They feel confident that no one on the team will embarrass or punish anyone else for admitting a mistake, asking a question, or offering a new idea.

Taking a risk around your team members may sound simple. But asking a basic question like “what’s the goal of this project?” may make you sound like you’re out of the loop. It might feel easier to continue without getting clarification in order to avoid being perceived as ignorant.

To measure a team’s level of psychological safety

Edmondson asked team members how strongly they agreed or disagreed with these statements:

  1. If you make a mistake on this team, it is often held against you.
  2. Members of this team are able to bring up problems and tough issues.
  3. People on this team sometimes reject others for being different.
  4. It is safe to take a risk on this team.
  5. It is difficult to ask other members of this team for help.
  6. No one on this team would deliberately act in a way that undermines my efforts.
  7. Working with members of this team, my unique skills and talents are valued and utilized.

2. Dependability.

Team members get things done on time and meet expectations.

3. Structure and clarity.

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

4. Meaning.

The work has personal significance to each member.

5. Impact.

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

Sources: Also read this Inc. summary