Google embarked on a study to identify the common denominators successful Google teams. After more than 200 interviews of 180+ active Google teams over the course of two years, the results defied their initial expectations. Originally, they thought a dream team would consist of one Rhodes Scholar, two extroverts, one engineer and a PhD.
Surprisingly, Google discovered that who is on a team matters less than how the team members interact, structure their work and view their contributions.1
Google learned that there are five key dynamics that set successful teams apart from other teams at Google. Here’s a summary of their key findings.
1. Psychological safety: Can we take risks on this team without feeling insecure or embarrassed?
2. Dependability: Can we count on each other to do high quality work on time?
3. Structure & clarity: Are goals, roles and execution plans on our team clear?
4. Meaning of work: Are we working on something that is personally important for each of us?
5. Impact of work: Do we fundamentally believe that the work we’re doing matters?
Psychological safety was far and away the most important of the five dynamics we found—it’s the underpinning of the other four. How could that be? Taking a risk around your team members seems simple. But remember the last time you were working on a project. Did you feel like you could ask what the goal was without the risk of sounding like you’re the only one out of the loop? Or did you opt for continuing without clarifying anything, in order to avoid being perceived as someone who is unaware?
In her TEDx talk, Amy Edmondson offers three simple things individuals can do to foster team psychological safety:
- Frame the work as a learning problem, not an execution problem.
- Acknowledge your own fallibility.
- Model curiosity and ask lots of questions.1