The study was explained in an in-depth New York Times article written by Charles Duhigg: “What Google Learned From Its Quest to Build the Perfect Team.” According to the article, in 2012 Google studied hundreds of its company’s teams to find out why some were successful and others weren’t.
“We had lots of data, but there was nothing showing that a mix of specific personality types or skills or backgrounds made any difference. The ‘who’ part of the equation didn’t seem to matter,” Abeer Dubey, a manager in Google’s People Analytics division, was quoted as saying in the article.
“There was no direct correlation between who they put on a project and whether or not that project would be successful,” said Perlman. “What they learned was that it wasn’t ‘who’; it was ‘how.’”
Summarizing the study, Perlman said Google found five key elements that separated high-performing teams from lower-performing teams. This included:
• Impact: Team members needed to feel their work really mattered and would create change.
• Meaning: The work was personally important to the employees and their development.
• Structure & Clarity: Employees had a clear idea of their roles and how they were connected to their coworkers to contribute to the greater good.
• Dependability: Team members could be trusted to accomplish their tasks on time and meet the company's high standard of excellence.
• Psychological Safety: Team members felt it was safe to take risks and be vulnerable in front of one another.
Perlman said teams that fostered an environment where employees could contribute openly were higher-performing. More recently, a Wall Street Journal article described research showing that “companies that scored in the top quartile on [management asking for ideas from employees and encouraging employees to try new approaches], [experienced] on average more than five times the revenue growth of companies in the bottom quartile.”
“Teams where someone made a mistake and they were punished disproportionally saw lower performance because people were holding back,” he said. “They weren't sharing the wild idea; they weren’t disagreeing, and you saw a lot more group think and regression to the average opposed to striking out to do something bold and different.”