How does Google build the perfect team?
We spend around 75% of our day working and communicating with colleagues. We know we accomplish more as part of a team than we can with our own individual output, no matter how productive we are. So how do we create optimal teams? Is there a strict formula we can all follow that will produce the optimally productive team? Or, are there examples we can learn from and customize as we create teams within our own companies? How did Google build such high performing teams?
It is no secret that strong team performance leads to strong profitability. Silicon Valley engineers work together to iterate and innovate at lightning speed. A company that harnesses the power of successful group collaboration has a competitive edge.
Google, as one of the largest and most successful tech companies to date, has spent voluminous amounts of money studying and perfecting the way people interact in working relationships. They formalized their efforts in a year long study in 2012 with Project Aristotle, and the results are intriguing: there is no one correct way to motivate all teams to be productive.
So, instead of looking for strict patterns or specific behavior, Google’s architects of the study turned to a more complicated analysis of group norms – unwritten rules or cultural patterns – within each team. The conclusion? The most important indicator of a high-functioning, successful team is the manner in which teammates treated one another. Successful teams let members speak equally. The members are also self aware and socially aware, so they know if a colleague is feeling uncomfortable. This comfort gives team members the confidence to take risks.
Perhaps the most interesting part to remember about this study is that a strictly data-driven analysis came to the same conclusion that good managers have always known: remembering that the people who comprise your teams are people is the most important first step to managing them well.
Read the full case study of how Google builds teams in The New York Times by Charles Duhigg.