A secret project at Google has been dedicated to building the perfect team for nearly five years.
Detailed in an extensive New York Times article by Charles Duhigg, ‘Project Aristotle’ studied hundreds of the tech giant’s teams and aimed to figure out “why some stumbled while others soared”.
Through years of research and studies the team found that one thing was more important than anything else in determining how well a team worked together: Psychological safety.
According to the article, this occurs when team members feel comfortable discussing aspects of their personal lives with their co-workers and not focusing purely on 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,” Duhigg writes.
“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.”
Project Aristotle found that a team that really knows each other and feels comfortable expressing themselves will work best.
“We must be able to talk about what is messy or sad, to have hard conversations with colleagues who are driving us crazy,” Duhigg writes.
“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.”
The article also uncovered some other discoveries from Google’s extensive studies on productivity and people, including that the most productive employees rotate who they get lunch with, and that good communication and an avoidance of micromanaging are the best traits for managers.