Google is infamous for having highly functional work teams, and for being a great company to work for. What accounts for the success of a Google team?
It’s relatively easy to discern the effectiveness of an individual employee. It’s a bit more challenging to figure out how to study what makes a group thrive or fail – but Google has done it.
A few years back, they released the results of an internal two-year study of their own teams.
Google conducted 200 interviews and analyzed 180 of its teams using a list of 250 attributes in order to see what characteristics are most important in making teams successful.
The results show that the attributes of individuals on the team are less important than how they work together. The single most important factor in determining a group’s success turned out to be something called “psychological safety.”
In teams with a high degree of psychological safety, members are unafraid to take risks, and are unembarrassed to ask questions or make mistakes.
In other words, people can be vulnerable with one another without fearing negative reactions.
“Individuals on teams with higher psychological safety are less likely to leave Google, they’re more likely to harness the power of diverse ideas from their teammates, they bring in more revenue, and they’re rated as effective twice as often by executives.”
Other factors that made a big difference were dependability (team members can rely on one another), structure and clarity (the goals, roles, and plans of the group are clear), meaning (the goals are important to the individuals on the team), and impact (the team members believe that what they are doing is important).
Factors like how much the team members have in common and their experience and education levels were much less important than one might think.
In a nutshell, great teams aren’t as much about great people as they are about great teamwork.