What happens when a company at the forefront of the digital economy -- one that is known globally for fostering new ways to unleash employee creativity to drive growth -- decides to apply it's expertise in data collection and analysis to improve the performance of its teams? Google undertook this effort, and the short answer is that for a long time, nothing much happened because the data yielded few patterns...and the ones that did emerge were often contradictory.
Ultimately, despite the apparently contradictory data, Google’s intense data collection and number crunching led it to a conclusion that good managers have intuitively known for a long time: the best teams find ways to listen to each other and read the reactions, moods and feelings of other members.
The team at Google responsible for the ‘‘employee performance optimization’’ research believes the effort was valuable even though its conclusions echo those previously articulated by earlier managers. They argue that it has created a method for talking about our insecurities, fears and aspirations in more constructive ways, and that it also has given us the tools to quickly teach lessons that once took managers decades to absorb.
Just having data that proves to people that these things are worth paying attention to sometimes is the most important step in getting them to actually pay attention." -- Julia Rozovsky, Google
We encourage you to read through the interesting, more complete story in this New York Times feature, What Google Learned From Its Quest To Build The Perfect Team. You can also check out Google's own "curated collection" of tools and lessons learned from its study of the workplace here.
-- Clara Shen