by Sarah Van Wagnen

When people are put into teams, there is always the uncertainty of whether they will thrive together, or collapse into chaos. Some people just click, and others don’t. Is there more behind a team simply “clicking” though? Could it actually be broken down into a science, that anyone could study? Researchers at Google say they have singled out specific qualities needed within a team to make it thrive. By understanding what makes the greatest teams, any person or company can increase productivity and happiness.

Looking deep into Google‘s inner structure reveals what makes their top performing teams so effective. By understanding what made certain teams so productive, Google was able to bring this information to every employee. They launched an investigation called “Project Aristotle” to solve the phenomenon about why some teams excel. Leaders at google wanted to know how to motivate their teams to achieve their best work. They studied over 100 different teams to try and find common patterns.

After collecting tons of different data, the researchers were at a loss. Teams could appear to be completely similar from the outside, but one may function much better for reasons they could not pin-point. ‘‘At Google, we’re good at finding patterns,’’ Dubey said. ‘‘There weren’t strong patterns here’’(Duhigg, 2016). What they soon realized was who exactly was on the teams didn’t really matter, it was something else.

Rozovsky and her colleagues kept coming across research by psychologists and sociologists that focused on ‘‘group norms.’’ They looked at unwritten rules within groups and how they could affect each individual. Norms differed from group to group, sometimes being affective and other times not; “the right norms, in other words, could raise a group’s collective intelligence, whereas the wrong norms could hobble a team, even if, individually, all the members were exceptionally bright” (Duhigg, 2016).

Researchers found a concept called Psychological safety within research papers, “Psychological safety refers to an individual’s perception of the consequences of taking an interpersonal risk” (“Re-Work”). Within teams, the more comfortable everyone felt sharing their thoughts and emotions the better they all worked together. Other very important factors were dependability and clarity. Each person should all put in an equal amount of effort, and must know what their specific role within the team is.

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When forming the most effective teams clear norms must be established. It is very important for one of these norms to encourage an open atmosphere for discussion, so that team members are not afraid to speak up. People that do not feel like they can speak up may feel unimportant and not work as hard. Without an open environment groupthink could also occur because everyone may just go along with what the most out-spoken person says. Sharing knowledge equalizes power throughout the group, so that everyone feels like they have a purpose. Groups with higher “average social sensitivity” also tended to work together better, “basically, these teams were more empathic and better at reading others’ emotions based on nonverbal cues” (Dr. Hall, 2016). Since they could understand each others feelings, it was easier for people to feel comfortable speaking out.

I do believe the findings within the study are accurate, however it takes knowledge of these findings in order for a team to try out the recommendations. It is also very important that each individual on the team know how to do their job, so that more work doesn’t fall on one person. Being clear about job roles, while encouraging discussion about ideas and feelings will usually result in a great team. The last time I participated in a successful team we divided up roles to who knew the most about each thing. We also did not make each other feel bad about speaking up and sharing new ideas.

If I was leading a work team, I would start by sharing something personal about myself, that maybe the team could relate to. People are more willing to work for a boss that they can connect with, and feel comfortable talking to. I would also divide up work to those who are skilled in each category, while also encouraging them to reach out to people on the team if they get stuck. A team is only as strong as its weakest link, so everyone must feel like they are important and valued. Google taped into this factor, and may be one of the reasons they are still so successful.



Dr. Hall T. (2016). 5 Research backed practices to build a high performing team. Retrieved from

Duhigg, C. (2016). What Google learned from its quest to build the perfect team. Retrieved from

Re:Work – Guide: Understanding team effectiveness. (nd). Retrieved from


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