Lessons from Google's research on how to build a productive team

What does it take to get a team to work well together? This is one of the biggest challenges for managers in IT and other industries – creating effective teamwork and getting your team to be more than the sum of its parts. Understanding teamwork has often been a matter of guesswork and intuition – some managers “just know” when they have the right people in the right jobs. But according to this article, Google recently shared the results of its data-driven analysis of what really makes a great team.

Google conducted a multi-year study called Project Aristotle of more than 100 active teams within its own company to find out the secrets of creating highly productive teamwork. The answer is simple yet profound: it turns out that the secret of teamwork is being nice to people.

Here are a few key components of Google's secret to teamwork:

Team dynamics are more important than team makeup: Many managers might think that a great team “just happens” if you get the right people with the right skills and personalities in the right jobs. But according to Google's research, the strength of a team has less to do with which people are on the team, and more to do with how the team interacts.

Respect and collaboration: The best teams tend to respect each other's feelings and create safe spaces for open conversation where everyone can feel comfortable contributing. Productive teams are good at making an effort to understand and relate to each other – and this starts with simple respect and open communication.

Psychological safety: Are people on your team comfortable with making themselves vulnerable, sharing what's really on their mind, confiding in each other, and pausing the conversation to ask for clarity? Or is your team more tight-lipped and tense? The best teams cultivate a feeling of “psychological safety,” where no one is worried about feeling embarrassed or bullied, and where people feel safe asking questions and proposing the “craziest” ideas. When team members feel safe, accepted, and understood, they are able to feel more comfortable sharing ideas and taking risks.

According to Google's research, great teamwork is not a matter of talent; it's a matter of creating a safe space for people to practice kindness, respect and empathy for their teammates. Productivity comes from mutual understanding – when people trust their teammates to be on their side, they'll be ready to do great things.

Image source: Tilemahos Efthimiadis via Compfight cc



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