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What is the secret to effective teams?

The category: Multi-cultural teams, Trust, WorldWork Blog

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Google researchers were tasked to find out the secret that made certain Google teams so much more effective than others. The project, which concentrated on over 180 teams, was code-named Project Aristotle, as a tribute to Aristotle’s quote; “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”.

Read on to find out what they discovered.

What did the research show?

The teams they researched were interdependent teams, i.e. they needed one another to get the work done. Interestingly it took the researchers a very long time to find any patterns. They looked at over a hundred teams over a year and the data still didn’t offer any clear verdicts. In fact, sometimes, the data they uncovered pointed in opposite directions.

Two key questions that eluded them were:

  • Which were the characteristics that successful teams have in common?
  • Is there a collective ‘intelligence’ that emerges within a team that makes it distinct and helps it to function on a more effective level?

After extensive research on numerous teams the key conclusions regarding what distinguished the ‘good’ teams from the not so ‘good’ ones centred around how the members of the team treated one another.

The right norms, those unwritten rules within a team about how to behave with each other, could raise a group’s collective intelligence. Whereas the wrong ones could scupper a team, even if the individuals within it were exceptionally bright.


In examining the ‘group norms’ 2 important differentials, among others, began to emerge:

  • Good teams energised people, were fun to be part of and generous in the inclusion of each other. They displayed the behaviours that create psychological safety which are part of the unwritten rules that establish a bond and of course human bonds matter. Companies rely on optimisation of resources such as, top talent, best available technology, high-quality systems and processes to generate success, success itself is often built on experiences that cannot be manufactured.
  • Good teams had surprisingly good social sensitivity, an awareness of each other’s feelings. They picked up quickly on voice, expressions and non-verbal cues. Ineffective teams had less sensitivity towards their colleagues. Good teams spoke in roughly the same proportion as each other. Interestingly, if one person or only a small group spoke the collective intelligence of the group declined.

Interesting findings but for those of you who cannot invest in extensive research, why not let the Team Trust Indicator (TTI) do it for you?

TTI is a team trust diagnostic that examines levels of trust among team members.

The differentials, that were identified by the Google researchers as being most critical for effective teams, are central to the 9 Trust Criteria on which the TTI is based.

This is what Andra Morosi, Global Executive and Team Coach, founder of International Milestones ( has recently said about the effectiveness of TTI to identify what teams want from each other if they are to perform at optimum level:


“I have witnessed once again the power and impact of this tool for team coaching when used recently in Paris with an international team of 30.

* it revealed the team to itself with a snapshot of the aggregate perceptions of individual members about where they stand collectively as a team
* it allowed a systemic view of key strengths and blind spots in terms of trust and collective performance
* it provided a seasoned platform for reflection, group discussion and focus around behaviours the team needed to address
* it supported me as the coach to orchestrate the team process and ensure they reached concrete measurable results”

If you would like to get to know more about the TTI go to this page. To find out more about becoming certified to use it click here or get in touch with WorldWork, producers of the diagnostic, at

Geraldine Pace