Google's Research Arm Wants to Identify What Makes a Great Team

Google's Project Oxygen recently vindicated those who refute the claim that managers don't matter. Now the search giant's researchers want to dive deeper and explore the building blocks of team chemistry.

Google researchers at its People and Innovation Lab (PiLab) recently vindicated those who refute claims that managers don't matter, writes Max Nisen of Quartz. According to Google VP Laszlo Bock, an initiative called Project Oxygen had been formed to test the assumption that managers are much less impactful than they get credit for. The initiative's findings instead proved the opposite. A good manager can indeed have a positive influence on productivity. Within their findings, the researchers identified eight traits that typify managerial excellence. These include coaching ability and resistance to micro-management. Rather than tear down the managerial class, Project Oxygen legitimized it and offered an evaluative system by which leaders can be measured.


As Nisen writes, these findings opened the door to PiLab’s next major endeavor. Just as Project Oxygen mapped the anatomy of leadership, its successor tackles team chemistry. Bock's goal is not merely to learn how teams operate most effectively. What he wants is a guiding light that can help leaders form the right kinds of teams to tackle specific problems.

You can think of this like a video game. Whenever you put together a team in an RPG, sports, or adventure game, you want to make sure the squad is built for the challenges ahead. This isn't difficult because the games tend to show information on character attributes so you know what to expect from each team member. Each game has an internal logic that players pick up on. You can determine which skills and attributes are most useful within the world of the game. The key is that the player has access to this attribute information. This, plus an understanding of the game's logical universe, makes choosing a team as easy as adding numbers — so as to make the most logical play.

Project Oxygen accomplished something similar to this idea, but with real-life leaders. The findings pushed Google to modify the way it evaluates managers to allow for the creation of these sorts of attribute systems. The next batch of research could expand this system so that real-life people can be evaluated just like the team members in video games. This way, Google (or any company, for that matter) can make informed decisions about building the best team for projects, problems, or even quests, if that's the sort of game you prefer to play.

Read more at Quartz.

In the Big Think video below, biographer Walter Isaacson examines Steve Jobs' innate ability to build effective teams to tackle specialized problems:

Photo credit: Konstantin Chagin / Shutterstock

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Sponsored
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

Space toilets: How astronauts boldly go where few have gone before

A NASA astronomer explains how astronauts dispose of their, uh, dark matter.

Videos
  • When nature calls in micro-gravity, astronauts must answer. Space agencies have developed suction-based toilets – with a camera built in to ensure all the waste is contained before "flushing".
  • Yes, there have been floaters in space. The early days of space exploration were a learning curve!
  • Amazingly, you don't need gravity to digest food. Peristalsis, the process by which your throat and intestines squeeze themselves, actually moves food and water through your digestive system without gravity at all.
Keep reading Show less

Steven Pinker's 13 rules for writing better

The Harvard psychologist loves reading authors' rules for writing. Here are his own.

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 21: Steven Pinker speaks onstage during OZY Fest 2018 at Rumsey Playfield, Central Park on July 21, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Brad Barket/Getty Images for Ozy Media)
Personal Growth
  • Steven Pinker is many things: linguist, psychologist, optimist, Harvard professor, and author.
  • When it comes to writing, he's a student and a teacher.
  • Here's are his 13 rules for writing better, more simply, and more clearly.
Keep reading Show less

Can the keto diet help treat depression? Here’s what the science says so far

A growing body of research shows promising signs that the keto diet might be able to improve mental health.

Photo: Public Domain
Mind & Brain
  • The keto diet is known to be an effective tool for weight loss, however its effects on mental health remain largely unclear.
  • Recent studies suggests that the keto diet might be an effective tool for treating depression, and clearing up so-called "brain fog," though scientists caution more research is necessary before it can be recommended as a treatment.
  • Any experiments with the keto diet are best done in conjunction with a doctor, considering some people face problems when transitioning to the low-carb diet.
Keep reading Show less