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.