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Our take on Google's quest for the perfect team

Our expert synthesist, Martin, took a look at the ins and outs of Google's perfect team methodology

We use this article as the basis for our analysis: What Google Learned From Its Quest to Build the Perfect Team

 

When Google set out to find out what makes some teams more efficient than others, they did it in the scientific, data-driven fashion they are known for. After years of research, two main areas stood out: communication and psychological safety. Teams where communication was more equally distributed among members did better than teams where a dominant figure  or a small group spoke all the time. Psychological safety is "a sense of confidence that the team will not embarrass, reject or punish someone for speaking up." 

It is one thing find out that people don't feel particularly safe in the team, i.e. that they are afraid of speaking openly because of the potential backlash. But as the Google research team themselves admit, it is much more difficult to give people actual guidelines on how to improve psychological safety within the team. The catch is that low overall level of perceived safety is a symptom, the cause being the network of individual relationships. You can feel accepted by most of your colleagues but even those few colleagues whose reaction you are afraid of will make you feel unsafe and hence cause. Furthermore, what is intimidating for one person may not be so for another (and vice versa). The best way to improve psychological safety is thus to work on the tense relationships. And this is precisely where sociomapping can help - by identifying where the tension is at the level of individual relationships and opening up a debate about the small steps that can be taken to reduce the tension. In other words, to help people learn how to be nice to each other.

New certified partners - Phoenix, AZ

It is with great pleasure that we announce MSS as a Certified Partner in the USA

MSS, a management consulting firm headquartered in Phoenix, Arizona with offices in Denver with 30 years of experience working with local, regional, and Global 2000 clients. MSS fosters a holistic approach to business management consulting that addresses people, process and technology to create the most successful business transformations. The MSS operating principle is to facilitate, educate, and support clients to help them achieve outstanding performance through leading practices and the proper application of technology.

David Lee will act as the certified Sociomapping Facilitator for MSS. As Consulting Director, David advises organizations on how to achieve a lasting impact through transformative strategies.  David has 20+ years of management experience in the fields of Business Development, Strategic Development, Organizational Change Management, and Innovation. David acquired his significant experience guiding organizations ranging from start-ups to Fortune 50 and has developed business relationships and partnerships in over 60 countries across Asia, the Middle East, Latin America, Western Europe and Russia.  David holds a Masters in International Management from Thunderbird, the School for Global Management at Arizona State University and is a certified Prosci Change Management Instructor.

Mapping a basketball team

We have been mapping a top 5 U19 basketball team. Interested in how a professional sports team sees itself?

This maps shows the team's perceived cooperation during their last 2 matches (loss, win). As always, blue means low marks, red means high marks.

We can see that the entire map is either yellow or green, which means that everyone in the team is rating everyone else very similarly - slightly above average. Everyone feels that there is some room to improve their team cooperation and coordination. Since everyone is on a similar level, our main tells in this map are the players' proximities.

In the facebook post, we already mentioned the main playmakers - Sam, Pete and Wayne and a group of secondary and tertiary wings and shot guards - Nigel, Karl and John, Mike.

T and X (we'll call them Tom and Xander) are both centers, they are not, however, a part of the central group with Sam and Pete but their proximity to them is much closer than Mike or John It's possible they are substitutes for the main center player, Wayne. They get called in to play in less crucial matches or when Wayne needs to get some rest after a longer string of matches.

The same could be said about Q (Quentin) and V (Vance), who are a duo of shot guards, who play exactly the same spots as Sam and Pete.

How to read a map?

We'll show you how to properly read the map and uncover how much information is hidden beneath the surface in every single map.

The following map that we call “current frequency of communication” simply shows us how often people talk to each other, or in workplaces, how often they communicate with each other about work related topics.

 

The basics:

If someone is red, it means that they have received higher scores (meaning higher communication frequency) from others, blue means lower scores. Key word here is “received”, how high a person is on the map is determined by the scores others have given them.

 

Mutual distance between people denotes mutual scores. The more people communicate with each other, the closer they are to each other.

 

Now, those are the basics covered. There are, however, many invisible and hidden things we can find in a map, even in a very simple map such as this one. Let’s go through a couple!

 

1. Emilia - Everyone in the team communicates with Emilia most frequently. What could this mean? For example, if this was a workplace, Emilia could be the coordinator or team leader.

2. Bradley and Chris are probably a team and share a lot of work together. They very likely report to Emilia together.

3. Jennifer’s position tells us that either she works alone, maybe her work isn’t very related to everyone else’s work (i.e. IT person in a team of consultants). Does this tell us that her position is wrong and she communicates too little with others? Absolutely not, maybe she is exactly where everyone needs her.

4. Kit is close to Emilia which indicates they share a lot of work, at the same time Kit is pretty low on the map, which means that he’s probably Emilia’s assistant. Or he could be the company owner that doesn’t often drop by but only checks on things through Emilia.

 

Deeper interpretations:

 

Now let’s look at the team as a whole. Emilia is obviously very very busy communicating with everyone. What could be the cause of this and what are the possible impacts?

 

Everyone could be communicating strictly through Emilia, even in cases where they aren’t reporting to her. For example, when Chris and Bradley need to tell something to Jennifer, they go through Emilia (“Hi, Emilia, could you please tell Jennifer to send us the reports by the end of the week?”).

This could cause Emilia to get overloaded with communication and become a bottleneck in the company. If this issue got fixed, Emilia would go lower on a map (yellow), possibly closer to Kit, Jennifer would go higher and closer.


This is one of many interpretations of a sociomap, the main point is that a sociomap gives people a perspective on how they communicate with each other. It encourages discussion about things that could always remain hidden. It encourages people to evaluate their relations, talk them through and improve them.

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The solution

Break new ground
in boosting team collaboration

We believe that the potential of a team is largely determined by the quality of communication and cooperation among its members and not just by the capacity of individuals. Because we know that analysing and understanding people perceptions on critical communication factors is a very complex and intricate matter, we developed a unique new solution and turned all mutual evaluations within a team into a map. We call it a Sociomap.

How does a map simplify anything?

Use a map or get lost in numbers and graphs

We all have heard the saying “a picture is worth a thousand words”. And that's why a map comes in handy even when it comes to mapping interactions between individuals or teams. Our sociomap blends every team member's perspective and provides a compact 3D visual representation of how the team sees itself. The proximity and intensity are key to understanding the roles and communication patterns in a team. It helps everyone involved to clearly see the road ahead and chart the common communication goals that will navigate them to better performance.

Is this grounded in science?

Space research applied to team development

Elaborating on the fact that human brains have an amazing capacity for understanding complex three dimensional images, R. Bahbouh developed the original sociomapping concept (1996) that was used for numerous spaceflight and military experiments with the objective to predict and prevent potential team failures. As the method proved successful we started using sociomapping as a development tool for high performing management teams. Having gathered plenty of data and feedback, we refined it to its current state-of-the-art level. In 2012, Sociomap was awarded the Innovation Award for its significant contribution to the field of sociodiagnostics at the 24th IIAS International Conference.

Map the gap!

Managing relationships made simple

It’s like a puzzle already put together. Sociomapping helps your team to look underneath the layers of professional relationships and uncover things that would remain invisible or puzzling had a standard method been used. It also gives every team member a possibility to instantly see where there is room for improvement or what changes need to be made. Because the map makes communication patterns literally resurface right in front of everyone's eyes it facilitates immediate team discussion, makes the analytic process extremely fast and promotes collective problem solving.

Lead the change

Your go-to tool for mapping
and improving team work

Whether you are a mid-sized company or a large multinational with hundreds of teams scattered all over the world, we believe that sociomapping will become your go-to tool for boosting employee engagement by streamlining your teams’ communication, cooperation, openness and trust.

We map it all

We realize that not all workplace relations and performance challenges revolve around communication so whenever your company decides to look into other aspects of your business, Sociomap is ready for it. Cooperation, mutual knowledge, reliability... you name it, we map it!

seeing is believing

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