For the good of the group- how Google’s Project Aristotle teaches about group dynamics

By: Natalie Antonio

Google, the internet search engine just celebrated it’s 18th birthday. Google has become the company of my lifetime, from starting out in a garage to owning some of the biggest websites. After years of research Google has learned that the best way to treat their employees is to kill them with kindness. They also learned that this was the best way to increase productivity with those employees. Their project titled “Project Aristotle”, took many years, hundreds of employees, about 100 different teams and a lot of data compilation within the four walls of the Google Corporation.

The purpose of Project Aristotle was to learn about the dynamics of the ideal team. Like many other businesses, Google relies on teamwork in order for work to get accomplished. That is why in 2012 Google launched this project. Google began gathering data to be analyzed from studies, and observing ways people acted within a group setting. The main Googlers responsible for Project Aristotle brought light to the business leaders in the world have known. The teams that work the best together are the ones who have respect for each other’s emotions. The teams that worked the best together seemed to collaborate equally in the conversation. Google figured out that groups that were the most productive actually had more to do with how the group interacted with each other and less to do with who was in the group.

Psychological Safety
Psychological Safety

One of the Google’s main goals for Project Aristotle was to establish psychological safety. This makes the employees feel more comfortable with taking risks and opening up to their colleagues. The New York Times took focus to a study by Amy Edmondson, from 1999, that discusses this term. Edmondson says “”shared belief held by members of a team that the team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking… A sense of confidence that the team will not embarrass, reject or punish someone for speaking up” This means that an employee should feel comfortable telling the person in charge a personal detail about his or her life, such as someone in his or her family is sick or the person herself is sick. This also means admitting true feelings inside and outside of the office.

The findings of Project Aristotle were really eye opening to me, that Google actually took the time to look into the makings of good team dynamics. I’m sure we’ve all been in those group projects in high school or college, where all the group members are constantly butting heads, accomplishing nothing. Google took the time to form logical data of why certain people work better in a group together. When people who work in a group project either with school or at work, they want to be able to put their whole self forward, not just their public self but their private self as well. I was thrilled to read that Google wants the same for it’s employees, because this is the type of company that I would like to work for some day in the future. This came off the idea after Sakaguchi, a Google employee came forward about his stage 4 cancer.

An example of a time when I was part of an effective group project was at Ashland University in my Topics in Health and Risk Communication class. After joining this class late because the class had a wait list. I was tossed into a group project with a group of girls who had already known each other for some time, and had all worked together before. I felt intimidated in this group at first, but the girls showed me how to research things, then we collaborated on the ideas that made our project highly effective. For this project we had to create a 90 second public service announcement, brainstorm a story board, write a script as well as a group literature review. We divided up the work between the group members and wrote our sections of the paper. Then one person proofread and made sure that the literature review came together cohesively. We were determined to reach our end goal of receiving a good grade on the project, but we also accomplished submitting this project to the Ohio Communication Association conference that is taking place this year.

After reading about Project Aristotle, I will definitely take the attributes of good group dynamics into consideration when I am faced with a group challenge. I feel that is in necessary for the group to work together as one rather than several separate beings. I feel that the findings from Project Aristotle will help many companies in the future when they are faced with group work challenges.

References:

Duhigg, C. (2016, February 25). What Google Learned From Its Quest to Build the Perfect Team. Retrieved September 29, 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 29, 2016, from http://qz.com/625870/after-years-of-intensive-analysis-google-discovers-the-key-to-good-teamwork-is-being-nice/

Schlossberg, M. (2016, February 27). Google experiment reveals the single most important quality for teamwork. Retrieved September 29, 2016, from Business Insider website:  http://www.businessinsider.com/google-reveals-how-to-have-the-perfect-team-2016-2

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