You may have heard of Google’s Project Aristotle – the research initiative that studied more than 100 teams for over a year to discover why some teams succeed and others flounder. Google’s People Operations Department, dedicated to cultivating the most productive workers, headed Project Aristotle in 2012 with researchers, statisticians, engineers, sociologists, and organizational psychologists.
They found there was no magic combination of “who” that made teams achieve. Having the best and brightest individuals did not equate to the best and brightest teams. Those with similar backgrounds and perspectives didn’t automatically reach consensus, and those with different personal experiences and hierarchical positions within Google often collaborated more easily.
This is positive because, as Harvard Business Review reported in Eight Ways to Build Collaborative Teams, “challenging tasks [facing businesses today] almost always require the input and expertise of people with disparate views and backgrounds to create cross-fertilization that sparks insight and innovation.”
Successful teams don’t focus on their individual differences, however; they focus on a shared goal and perceive everyone’s input as important to achieving the task at hand.
In order to do this, effective teams establish group norms – the traditions, behavioral standards, and rules that govern how we function when we gather. They often arise naturally, but when they do not, a team, family, or community can choose to consciously establish rules by which to self-govern in order to reach common consensus for the collective good.
Our own community formally adapted a set of norms in 2010 when we faced a pattern of uncivil discourse. Over 1,000 organizations, adults, and children signed the national Speak Your Peace Pledge to hold ourselves accountable when facing difficult, sometimes emotionally-charged conversations. Still today, many organizations open the year or difficult meetings by reviewing the pledge.
If as a community we commit to respectful, healthy communication, we can optimize our unique ideas, expertise, and voices to creatively approach regional solutions together. As more people choose to make this place their home, we must be more committed than ever to adhering to our group’s norms of good behavior. Because at the end of the day, we all come here out of love for this community.
The nine tools by which we discover productive and amicable relations are:
- Pay attention. Be aware and attend to the people and the world around you.
- Listen. Genuinely focus on others as they speak so that you may better understand their perspectives.
- Be Inclusive. Welcome all points of view, every individual, and all groups of citizens working for the greater good.
- Don’t Gossip. And do not accept when others do. Speaking with consideration and kindness is at the heart of civil behavior.
- Show Respect. Honor other people and their opinions, especially in the midst of disagreement.
- Be Agreeable. Two ingredients for being agreeable in conversation: 1. The ability to consider that you might be wrong. 2. The ability to admit that you don’t know.
- Apologize. Be sincere and repair damaged relationships.
- Give constructive criticism. Be sure that your intention is to help, not to humiliate or attack someone personally.
- Take responsibility. Don’t shift responsibility or blame others.
If you are interested in downloading materials from the national Speak Your Peace campaign, visit their page. This article first appeared in the 10/12/2016 Sierra Sun Give Back Tahoe page which shares updates and information about your local nonprofit community. To learn more about Google’s Aristotle Project, read Charles Duhigg’s article in the New York Times.