Why some Googlers talk about their risky projects at the start of every meeting


google employees


Google's picky employee selection process is the stuff of legend.

Once you get the job, you're surrounded by others who also made the cut - some of the smartest, most accomplished people on the planet.

This can actually be intimidating and make employees unhappy, Google's HR folks recently discovered.


That was one finding of a two-year study of team success involving more than 180 work teams. Google's HR department released the results of the study on Tuesday.

As we previously reported, Google's HR team discovered five attributes that make for happy teams, including some fairly obvious things: People want to do personally satisfying work, have their work make an impact on the world, and have have dependable coworkers and clear goals.

But the top attribute for success was a bit of a surprise. Google's HR folks calls it "psychological safety." It means "can we take risks on this team without feeling insecure or embarrassed?"


You may think that with tech industry's emphasis on launching startups, dreaming big, moving fast, and breaking things that Silicon Valley is fll of of risk takers. You'd be wrong.

Google employees (like most people) were "reluctant" to come off as if they didn't know something, couldn't do something, or were out of the loop, the HR folks found.

Actually, this is a fairly big problem in the tech industry. Many really smart tech workers, surrounded by other smart people, have run-amok feelings of inadequacy. It's called Imposter's Syndrome and it isn't helped by a certain wise-cracking culture common in the software development world.


This being Google, the HR team built a tool called the gTeams exercise to help measure how each team rated on the attributes of happiness and to improve any weak spots. More than 3,000 Googlers across 300 teams used the tool, Google said.

Some used it to create new team habits, like starting every team meeting by sharing a story about a risk they took in the previous week. This encouraged people to take risks (so they had stories to share) while making risk-taking feel more acceptable.

And it measurably made team members feel safer while improving other employee performance metrics, as well, Google said.


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