What makes some teams flourish while others flop? Google’s extensive research on the subject has found the magic ingredient to teamwork success, and The Go Game knows how to mix it into your workplace.
According to Google, the best teams have what Harvard Business School professor Amy Edmondson calls psychological safety. This term describes a group culture in which members feel at ease taking risks. It is the shared belief that members will not be embarrassed, rejected, or punished for speaking up. Sounds nice, right? Studies (and common sense) show that teams can develop this crucial element with some good old-fashioned playtime.
Groups are more productive when members feel safe and supported in their work environment. Instead of hiding their mistakes, psychologically safe teams greet mistakes as learning opportunities. Team meetings feel relaxed and energizing. People interject and build off each other’s ideas. When someone goes off on a tangent, the rest of the group follows along the new train of thought. Meetings start and end by naturally sliding into casual chitchat. All this may not sound like the model for high productivity and success, but it is. In markets that increasingly rely on creative ideas and innovative approaches, a psychologically safe team is not only happier; it’s also more productive. When an environment encourages people to take risks, creativity is free to manifest.
A surefire way to develop a psychologically safe workplace is through… play! Play has a positive impact for all the reasons you would expect. When people work together towards a common goal while having fun, they establish positive group norms that will transfer back to the workplace. Most importantly, playing with others has been scientifically proven to increase empathy between teammates. Psychologist Jeff Mogul found that just 15 minutes of playing rock band with a total stranger makes you feel empathy towards them. This is significant because empathy is at the root of psychological safety. Google’s research shows that in the best teams — the psychologically safe teams — people listen to each other and are emotionally sensitive to their teammates. So if just 15 minutes of rock band can make complete strangers let down their emotional guard, imagine what hours of wacky collaborative team challenges can do.