The Perfect Team According to Google Researchers

The Perfect Team According to Google Researchers

Following on from their extensive research undertaking to understand what makes the perfect boss (see Project Oxygen), Google have completed the next installment in the series by cracking the code to the perfect team.

Codenamed “Project Aristotle,” in honour of the Greek philosopher, who said “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts,” Google researchers looked at a range of quantitative and qualitative data over several years to determine the most important elements that make an effective team. (Note: The research is focused on life at Google specifically, but it will likely have transferable lessons for teams in other companies and industries.)

Full details about the study can be found on Google’s re:Work website.

In brief, Google's researchers relied on four criteria to measure team effectiveness:

Executive evaluation of the team Team leader evaluation of the team Team member evaluation of the team Sales performance against quarterly quota

The results are summarised in the following Google graphic:

Google Aristotle

The most important element to a team’s success: psychological safety. (“By far.”)

Psychological safety: Psychological safety refers to an individual’s perception of the consequences of taking an interpersonal risk or a belief that a team is safe for risk taking in the face of being seen as ignorant, incompetent, negative, or disruptive. In a team with high psychological safety, teammates feel safe to take risks around their team members. They feel confident that no one on the team will embarrass or punish anyone else for admitting a mistake, asking a question, or offering a new idea.”

The model has some overlap with The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team model, reinforcing the paramount importance of social trust and personal vulnerability. It also loosely overlaps with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: safety before meaning and achievement.

The New York Times wrote about Project Aristotle earlier this year. White


“The Google study failed to find any effect for group size yet they know from other research that it should have an effect. Why? The Google study suffered from anthropic bias [see Anthropic Bias - Observation Selection Effects in Science and Philosophy by Nick Bostrom (2002)]. Thus I would take the Google study as just one amongst many and not as something particularly special in team effectiveness research.”

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