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Ideas for great business practices come mostly from creating a safe and rewarding work environment.

Five traits of successful work teams

Great results derive more from office atmosphere than from the type of people you hire.

A study by Google, the internet and tech giant, shows the success of business teams is more dependent on the office atmosphere and the nature of the people than upon their type or level of training.

Google instigated a project they called Project Aristotle to discover what makes workplace teams effective, and has shared some of its internal research. All of Google’s 60,000 employees work on at least one team, and some are on two or more. This data-driven study included more than 200 interviews with Google employees and looked at more than 250 attributes of more than 180 active Google teams over a period of two years.

When the project began, Google People Operations Analyst Julia Rozovsky reported she and others expected "we'd find the perfect mix of individual traits and skills necessary for a stellar team."

Instead, they found something that appears more widely applicable.

"We were dead wrong," Rozovsky said. "Who is on a team matters less than how the team members interact, structure their work, and view their contributions."

They found five key dynamics of human interaction that set successful teams apart from other teams at Google. Arguably, these may be the same at most workplaces.

  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 and clarity: Are goals, roles, and execution plans on our team clear?
  4. Meaningful 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?

Of those workplace values the one they call psychological safety was the most important and actually laid a foundation for the other four, Rozovsky said.

If you've ever taken part in a brainstorming session, this should be clear to you. Brainstorming is designed to examine ideas that otherwise might not come to the forefront in a group. The first rule of brainstorming is that all ideas are on the table and to be spoken as soon as they are thought of, and there are to be no comments, no disapproving looks, no discussion during brainstorming.

Rozovsky explains: "Turns out, we’re all reluctant to engage in behaviors that could negatively influence how others perceive our competence, awareness, and positivity. Although this kind of self-protection is a natural strategy in the workplace, it is detrimental to effective teamwork. On the flip side, the safer team members feel with one another, the more likely they are to admit mistakes, to partner, and to take on new roles."

Google's research showed individuals on teams with higher psychological safety are less likely to leave Google, they’re more likely to harness the power of diverse ideas from their teammates, they bring in more revenue, and they’re rated as effective twice as often by executives.

To read more from Google’s study, go to

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