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Google (re)discovers collective intelligence

Google’s good at crunching data, and, like most data-oriented corporations, it’s also fond of applying its data collecting and processing habits to its own operations. Last year, Google announced the results of a two-year effort to understand what makes some Google teams more effective than others.

For those of you familiar with collective intelligence research, the results won’t be too surprising: After looking at 250 attributes of 180+ teams and conducting hundreds of interviews, Google’s analysts concluded that it’s not who’s on the team that matters most, but how they interact with each other.

The most important feature of successful teams was what Google’s researchers called “psychological safety”: the feeling among team members that they can take risks without insecurity or fear of embarrassment.

For more details, see these articles:

New York Times: What Google Learned From Its Quest to Build the Perfect Team

re:Work: The five keys to a successful Google team

Associated Press: Google searches itself to build more productive teams

Inc. : What Google’s New Emotional Intelligence Study Says About Teamwork and Success

This result aligns well with  experimental findings about collective intelligence from Alex Pentland and MIT’s Center for Collective Intelligence.

While Google has not discovered something entirely new, it has proved that collective intelligence principles can trump individual-centric notions of performance, even in a real-world setting.