When Google wanted to find out what made teams effective, Project Aristotle was born. Over 150 interview hours were conducted with Google employees to discern the key elements that made for a good team — and when lacking, made for a team that fell apart.
What applies to teams, you’ll see, applies to you and me individually. What you need for yourself is the same thing others require from you when you collaborate:
“There’s a myth we all carry inside our head,” Bock said.
“We think we need superstars. But that’s not what our research found. You can take a team of average performers, and if you teach them to interact the right way, they’ll do things no superstar could ever accomplish.
“And there’s other myths, like sales teams should be run differently than engineering teams, or the best teams need to achieve consensus around everything, or high-performing teams need a high volume of work to stay engaged, or teams need to be physically located together.
“But now we can say those aren’t right. The data shows there’s a universality to how good teams succeed. It’s important that everyone on a team feels like they have a voice, but whether they actually get to vote on things or make decisions turns out not to matter much. Neither does the volume of work or physical co-location. What matters is having a voice and social sensitivity.”
Onstage, Bock brought up a series of slides.
“What matters are five key norms,” he told the audience.
Teams need to believe that their work is important.
Teams need to feel their work is personally meaningful.
Teams need clear goals and defined roles.
Team members need to know they can depend on one another.
But, most important, teams need psychological safety.
The first three elements felt so significant they could easily have been transposed into three top principles required for personal growth.
- You need to feel that what you do is important. In work and in your personal life.
- You need to feel that what you do is meaningful.
- You need clear goals.
At first I skipped over the final two points as I translated these findings to how we work as individuals.
Principle Number 4 of course only makes sense in the context of working with others: That you feel you can depend on one another.
But Principle Number 5, that you require psychological safety, was deemed most important.
Yet I dismissed it when considering how that applies to we creators who are striving to make our marks individually.
Until it struck me that I am the only one who can provide psychological safety when engaging creatively.
We creators often sabotage our sense of security with doubt. Or worse, internal slurs we’d never allow another to utter to us.
You’re not up to this.
Who are you kidding, you’ve never accomplished anything of this magnitude, why even try?
For a creator, it’s a free and unfettered mind.
There’s a placid center we can tap to dispel corrosive thoughts. Meditation plays this role for many, me included.
But sometimes it’s as simple as denying the thought. That’s not true, you say to yourself.
I don’t believe it, you say to your thought.
No, you suck! You think back as you stick your (mental) tongue out at that thought flashing by.
Have you ever tried talking back to your own thoughts?
You will convulse laughing after a short while.
Talk back to your subpar thoughts. Sneer at them, if you must. Or treat them with gentle admonishment: Oh MiniMe, let MegaMe take over here.
They’ll shape up, your thoughts. They’ll even join your counter argument after a little forceful back talk.
Yeah, what was I thinking? You’re right, I can rock this.