Project Aristotle: What Google Couldn’t Google

by Samm Stutzman

Two heads think better than one. It takes a village to raise a child. Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much. What do all of these well known phrases have in common? Answer, they are all about teams, banding together to get something accomplished. One time or another we have heard these phrases, and maybe have not thought that much of them. However, they are beginning to hold great meaning in the world of business. Teams have become essential in the business world, as most companies are beginning to notice the power that they have on efficiency. Google, knowing all to well that team work makes the dream work, set off about five years ago to try and build the perfect team. This case study will look at their efforts but also their results and see if they really accomplished making the perfect team.

Like any good company Google is always looking for new ways to improve, and Project Aristotle was one way they were trying to do just that. The project was to look at different teams throughout the whole company and try to figure out why some groups did fantastic while others fell short. The researchers first needed to find out what makes a team. “Teams- are highly interdependent – they plan work, solve problems, make decisions, and review progress in service for a specific project” (re:Work, n.d.). After narrowing that down, they began looking at real life teams within the company. They hoped to find reoccurring patterns in highly successful teams that would give them a clear answer to what makes them so successful, but their finding would be surprising.

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An example of how the Googler researchers looked for patterns in teams. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/28/magazine/what-google-learned-from-its-quest-to-build-the-perfect-team.html?_r=0le.

The researchers assigned to the project looked at all aspects that could make a team similar to each, from their hobbies to their personalities, and what they found was there was no patterns. One reporter writes “No matter how researchers arranged the data, though, it was almost impossible to find patterns – or any evidence that the composition of a team made any difference” (Duhigg,, 2016). Though they could not find patterns that made the teams similar they finally came to the conclusion that a good team was based on “group norms” (Duhigg, 2016). The problem was that there were many different norms found in teams, and while some had the same exact ones others who did equally as well were completely different. So they began to look deeper into the teams and finally they seemed to crack the code. In an article in Quarts that covered the project they said, “it has less to do with who is in a team, and more with how a team’s members interact with one another” (Mohdin, 2016).

The study ultimately showed what people in both the business world and outside world have always known, and that is people work better when they are treated better. As mentioned in class there are many pros to having small groups, there is the diversity or ideas, collective commitment, and shared knowledge just to name a few. Though there are some risky situations that everyone runs into when forming a group and that is everyone is different. Different personalities, communication styles, and work habits. These differences could potentially be the downfall of the group, but it does not need to be that way. Google researchers found that these differences are the reasons why some groups are not success, but it is not because the group members are different. In fact, it is because of how the group members responded to these differences that made their group fail.

Looking on personal experiences in dealing with groups it is easy to see that there is great truth to what was found in Project Aristotle. It makes sense that people like to be treated well, and that in return they put their best foot forward. This can be seen in many aspects of life and not just the team setting. I can think back to different times when I was involved in a group projects were the situations either went really good or really bad. In the groups that went really well there was mutual respect from everyone involved, and we all gave our input on what we wanted to happen. While in the groups that went very bad there was chaos from everything to who was in charge and what was the plan. It was in those groups that there was bad interact between everyone and because of that the team failed.

 

References

Duhigg, C. (2016, February 25). What Google Learned From Its Quest to Build the Perfect Team. Retrieved September 28, 2016, from http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/28/magazine/what-google-learned-from-its-quest-to-build-the-perfect-team.html?_r=1

Mohdin, A. (2016, February 26). After years of intensive analysis, Google discovers the key to good teamwork is being nice. Retrieved September 28, 2016, from http://qz.com/625870/after-years-of-intensive-analysis-google-discovers-the-key-to-good-teamwork-is-being-nice/

 Re:Work – Guide: Understand team effectiveness. (n.d.). Retrieved September 28, 2016, from https://rework.withgoogle.com/guides/understanding-team-effectiveness/steps/introduction/

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