How do you build the perfect team? That’s a critical question for organizations – from Fortune 500 companies to a President’s cabinet to the perfect theater troupe. Google sought the answer and used all the data and analytics at its disposal. In today’s episode Peter and Paul review the findings and compare the conclusions of the Google researchers to their own experience. Their starting point is a February 2016 article in the New York Times entitled “What Google Learned From Its Quest to Build the Perfect Team.” An immediate takeaway is that the best teams are not comprised of the “best” people – they’re more of a hodgepodge. Syncing with members of your team is critical, as Pete demonstrates with an old acting exercise, a derivative of the Meisner Technique called 1-2-3. Paul attempts it but stumbles. As the men demonstrate, the power of this syncing exercise is unquestionable. As it turns out, the effectiveness of groups comes down to norms, spoken or unspoken rules to which the group adheres. And, crucially, some norms are better for a group’s collective IQ. The Times’ article posits two groups with strong norms: Team A, rigid, efficient, comprised of smart and successful types. Team B is a mixed lot and spends time “warming up” with jokes, gossip, goofing around. It turns out that Team B will outshine by a huge margin because of two key norms: “conversational turn-taking” and empathy. These two norms create “psychological safety” which engenders true creativity, innovation and collaboration. “Psychological Safety” is so important, it supersedes all other group attributes. A safe space, whether in acting class, a tech company or a 12-Step meeting, is a space in which members know they won’t be rejected, embarrassed or punished for sharing, no matter what. This creates mutual respect and interpersonal trust that lets new ideas emerge. Paul shares that when he feels fearful or insecure in a situation he defaults to the most conservative, hackneyed solution to prevent recrimination. An atmosphere of fear will therefore kill fresh perspective. A key insight of the article is that emotional conversations and admission of personal struggles creates “psychological safety” – a difficult prospect for some work environments where emotionalism is considered “unprofessional.”

Mentioned in the discussion:

Alex Ferguson’s Leading

Documentary on Atari: Game Over

Diapers Off! © 2017.


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