Thoughts on the New York Times Article about Project Aristotle and its findings

When I read this article I can’t stop thinking of the Prototyping sessions at Lift 2016. Teams from big corporations worked together to collaborate on exploring new ideas and developing new projects. Some had to work on a video, others had to work on models. Others had to create 2d representations. One set of tables had people working on music, graphics and more.

We had to record a number of interviews and they often said that they enjoyed being out of the office, in a different setting with different people. They spoke about how valuable this experience was and that they wanted to do this frequently, rather than once every few years.

In this article they mention that ‘‘equality in distribution of conversational turn-taking.’’ is important for successful teams. I agree whole-heartedly with this statement. I am not a forceful person, I wait until I am asked a question before speaking. As a result it is easy for me to switch off and think of other things. By finding a team where people listen to everyone else we engage people.

This is a topic discussed in Insanely Simple. It’s a book about Steve Jobs and how Apple works. They speak of the eight-person meeting. If you’re not needed you’re not allowed to be in the room. The focus is on keeping groups small and dynamic rather than large and clunky.

‘‘As long as everyone got a chance to talk, the team did well,’’ Woolley said. ‘‘But if only one person or a small group spoke all the time, the collective intelligence declined.’’. That’s because listening is an act of kindness but no more. What responsibility or accountability do we have in a team where one person takes over the conversation?

‘‘average social sensitivity’’ That’s good for my personality type. When I take personality type tests seriously and for fun I get Intuition as one of the four words… “skilled at intuiting”. Compassion is an important part of good team dynamics. “People on the ineffective teams, in contrast, scored below average. ”

One of the books “Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success” explores this idea in depth. It devotes quite a bit of time exploring team dynamics within the Simpsons creative team. It speaks about authorship, co-writing and collaboration as keys to success. It speaks about letting people work a first draft of the script and getting teams of people to re-work and re-write it. I have heard about this taking place on a lot of television shows. This could be one of the reasons why American television shows are compelling to watch. As teams work on projects everyone feels compassion for the end project, rather than individuals.

What Project Aristotle has taught people within Google is that no one wants to put on a ‘‘work face’’ when they get to the office. No one wants to leave part of their personality and inner life at home. But to be fully present at work, to feel ‘‘psychologically safe,’’ we must know that we can be free enough, sometimes, to share the things that scare us without fear of recriminations.

I started writing this as a facebook comment but saw that I was inspired enough to write a blog post instead.


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