Why team performs – the Aristotle project at Google

temps estimé pour lire ce billet : 3 minutes

§1 — Abstract

Psychological Safety is the most important factor for performing teams. #Empathy and #Equivalence are the key factor to establish Psychological Safety . This can be structured with #NVC, #Liberating Structures and Elements of #Sociocracy or #Holacracy

§2 — Why teams perform

The project Aristotle at google tracked 180 teams for 3 years, to elucidate why team performs, or not.

The original hypothesis was that maybe :

  • some members like each other a lot (#sympathy)
  • healthy mix of personality type (#diversity)
  • or team were friends outside of work (#sympathy)

no evidence was found that is makes a difference.

However, two behaviors were found on above average teams:

1/ equivalence of participation

  • equivalence of talking
    • everyone speaking on every task (’“equality in distribution of conversationel turn taking”) or
    • leadership shifted from assignemnt to assignment (#turning roles )

but if only one or a small amount of people speaks all the time, the collective intelligence declined. (#submission)

2/ good teams all had “high social sensivity” (i.e. can read emotions of others) (#empathy)

the less sensitive readings mean teams performance below average

§2.1 — Researcher concluded

that it did not matter so much who was on the team , but how they treated each other.

  • everybody participated and talked
  • paying respect by listening

That creates:

  • the psychological safety,
  • and the psychological safety is the higer importance factor on the team’s ability to succeed.

§2.2 — My Conclusion

  • #empathy over #sympathy
  • #creativity and #respect over #belonging/#submission

What matters is not #sympathy among members, but their capability of #empathy. In my experience, the distinction is not clear for most, but specialists1 . #Empathy can be developped with #NVC for example, and I have done it in professional environment with great results.

#Creativity needs #respect to flourish, and the « need for belonging » need not much the old reflex of #domination and #submission , but #equivalence, #autonomy and #responsability. This can be implemented with principles and practices from #LiberatingStructures and #sociocracy-#holacracy. In my experience, the elements of #Sociocracy / #Holacacry are better introduced progressively in time, rather than with a big-bang approach.


§3 — Annex.

Extract from The Report

The researchers found that what really mattered was less about who is on the team, and more about how the team worked together. In order of importance:

§4 — Related

Taesch, Luc. “expliquer l’empathie.” Serendipity, May 4, 2016. https://www.taesch.com/cnv/expliquer-l-empathie.

Building a psychologically safe workplace | Amy Edmondson | TEDxHGSE

  1. Taesch, “expliquer l’empathie.” 

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