Googling the Perfect Group

By: Sabrina Mills

The purpose of this case study was to look at Project Aristotle. It analyzes group atmospheres to see how well certain groups work together with different aspects. Project Aristotle was meant to improve work group environments by finding out what works and if it depended on who, and in this case study, we look at the results of these experiments. And determine what kind of groups and group environments work best, and what contributes to these environments.

The purpose of Project Aristotle was to figure out why some of Googles teams did well, and why some did not. Google wanted to create the perfect teams, and did so by studying everything about their employees, from who the ate lunch with, to which of the best managers share what traits. They studied whether it was better to put similar people in groups together, or whether they would thrive with people from all over the company. They looked at 180 different teams across the board, with different aspects such as personality, or background skill, but no real patterns emerged, even in the overlap. The who of the equation didn’t seem to matter (Duhigg, 2016).

Some of the key finding of the study were interesting. There were several very successful groups. But the studies found that some of them were friends outside of the group, and some who were almost strangers outside the groups (Duhigg, 2016). Some wanted strong managers, while others wanted a less hierarchal structure. While struggling to find similar patterns, the researchers came across “Group Norms”. Group norms are traditions, standards, or unwritten rules that a group follows (Duhigg, 2016). Even if members acted differently outside the group, the group norms strongly influenced how they interacted with the group. But not all group norms were the same (Duhigg, 2016). Some had free and open conversation, while others had very structured discussions. Some groups would celebrate birthdays or began with chitchat about the weekend. Others got right down to business and didn’t like to gossip (Duhigg, 2016). Another thing researches found interesting is that if a team did well on one thing, they did well on most of the projects. But if a team failed to succeed at a task, they usually failed at others as well.

Researchers for Project Aristole then wanted to find out what was most important to these groups or what they valued most in their work environment. All teams had 2 things in common. Everyone usually got turns to talk, and had equal speaking time. The other is that the good teams had “average social sensitivity”. This means that they could gauge how others in the group were feeling based on mostly nonverbal cues, such as their voice or expressions (Duhigg, 2016). Researchers sometimes refer to this as Psychological safety. This is defined as “a shared belief that the team is safe for interpersonal risk taking” (RE:work). Some other group needs that were looked at are Dependability, Meaning, and Impact. Dependability means that the team members want to know that when someone says they’ll do something, they will follow through. Meaning refers to the work that an individual is doing. They want to do something for the group that also has meaning for them personally(RE:work). Impact is understanding how the work your team is doing contributes to the whole organizations goals.

When forming effective teams, the study results are helpful. This way you can look at the results and help form effective teams based on what certain groups value most. If some prefer structured meetings or free-flow interactions. A structured meeting would have more of a closed system. Where only a few ideas are shared. And a more free-flow group would have an open system where lots of info and new ideas are being discussed.

I believe that the study’s findings are accurate. I would personally prefer to be part of an open group that has lots of ideas and info being shared. I want to be able to know who my teammates are. I was once part of this study group for a class. We would get together to study and do homework, but we’d also talk about other things and tell joes and it was very easy to get along with them.

These finding would influence my leading of a team in a few ways. I’d make sure that everyone got an equal chance to share and do their part so that they felt that they were an important part of the team. I would also want to be able to talk about outside things with the team so no one felt like complete strangers and were comfortable in the environment.



Duhigg, C. (2016). What Google Learned From Its Quest to Build the Perfect Team. Retrieved September 30, 2016, from


Re:Work – Guide: Understand team effectiveness. (n.d.). Retrieved September 30, 2016, from




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