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Recap of Google’s [Long Article &] Pursuit of the Perfect Team

While writing last week’s brainstorming post, I read NY Times’ article about Google’s pursuit of finding the “perfect team”. The article touched on how the most effective teams all operated very differently, and there was no clear pattern amongst groups… kind of.

There was no clear correlation to successful teams being friendly outside the office versus those with no outside office interactions. There were successful groups of full of introverts and those full of extroverts and then teams mixed. Teams made up of exceptionally bright individuals didn’t directly translate to outperforming teams with less-exceptionally intelligent individuals.

Instead, one key element that all high-functioning teams exhibited was everyone having an equal voice – speaking roughly equal amounts. Teams heavily dominated by a few did not function nearly as well as those more “talkative” groups.

Further, high-performing teams had team members who would engage in conversation regardless of function or experience. Everyone weighed in with general thoughts plus their experience and area of expertise. These teams exhibited high “psychological safety” where team members could speak out without fear of others judging or being critical. Everyone could freely and respectfully interject one another.

Perhaps then, it’s no surprise high functioning teams scored high on emotional intelligence in order for psychological safety to exist. Team members would be perceptive of how others in the group felt and would address those feelings directly, rather than ignoring or not knowing at all.

The article pointed what subtly fascinated me in my team’s recent brainstorming – this implicit psychology safety net (and indeed culture) that I've noticed has been lacking in many companies I've worked with over the years. There's still this notion of the leader(s) having full direction and control and everyone else are subordinates. It creates a gulf in leadership abilities, detracts from confidence, and hampers innovation.

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