Team Development

Leadership and Management Development

What do an Ancient Greek philosopher and the greatest tech company in the world have in common?.

Answer - they both knew that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts... although the tech company was over 2,000 years behind the philosopher!

In the world of tech giants and innovation, Google stands out as a company renowned for its commitment to data-driven decision-making. One of its most fascinating projects, "Project Aristotle," (following on from 'Project Oxygen' which focussed on great management) delved deeply into the intricate dynamics of teamwork within the company.

In this blog, we will explore the origins, methodology, findings, and lasting impact of Project Aristotle.

The Genesis of Project Aristotle.

Project Aristotle was launched by Google's People Operations (formerly known as HR) department in 2012. Google, like any large organisation, was eager to understand what makes some teams excel while others falter. Despite having an array of talented individuals, the company found that high-performing teams were not just about having the smartest people in the room. The dynamics of teamwork and collaboration remained a mystery that Project Aristotle aimed to unravel.

The Methodology: Cracking the Teamwork Code.

Project Aristotle began by studying hundreds of Google's teams over three years and collecting data on their composition, communication styles, and overall performance when reaching the high bar of excellence Google demands. The research team conducted qualitative and quantitative surveys, interviewed team members and managers, and analysed existing data from performance reviews and their ability to meet goals, deadlines and objectives. It was an ambitious endeavour, and its findings were eagerly awaited not just within Google but in the broader fields of organisational psychology and team dynamics.

The Surprising Findings.

Project Aristotle's research yielded some unexpected results. Google found that it wasn't necessarily about having teams composed of the highest IQs or the most expert in their field. Instead, to their surprise, high-performing teams shared a common set of characteristics that alluded to a team climate rather than tangible attributes.

  • Psychological Safety: The most crucial factor in a successful team was psychological safety. Team members needed to feel safe to take risks, share their ideas, and make mistakes without fear of judgment or retaliation. A culture of trust and mutual respect was found to be the foundation of high-performing teams. The term psychological safety was made popular by Project Aristotle in 2012 but was first documented in 1954 by clinical psychologist Carl Rogers. The term was then solidified in meaning by Amy C. Edmondson. Edmondson is a prominent organisational theorist and professor known for her extensive research on leadership, team dynamics, and organisational learning. She held the position of Novartis Professor of Leadership and Management at the Harvard Business School and is a highly regarded authority in the field of leadership and teamwork.

  1. Dependability: Teams that could rely on one another for tasks and meet commitments consistently performed better. Dependability among team members was a key factor in a team's success. Teams who had this wouldn't just meet Google's high bar, they would do it together with a supporting attitude towards colleagues and their needs as well as the outcomes.

  1. Structure and Clarity: High-performing teams had clearly defined roles, goals, and execution plans. Everyone on the team understood their responsibilities and how they contributed to the larger objectives. These would be discussed and feedback given on where boundaries existed and how cross-over would be managed.

  1. Meaning: The work had to be personally meaningful to team members. They needed to understand the purpose and impact of their work beyond financial gain. This also applied to the way the team worked together, knowing that we all find meaning in how we support those we work with, inside and outside work.

  1. Impact: Team members believed their work had a direct impact on the success of the project or organisation. Feeling their contributions to each other as well as the bigger picture mattered was a significant motivator.

The Lasting Impact.

Project Aristotle provided valuable insights into teamwork and led to a cultural shift within Google. The findings emphasised the importance of fostering a psychologically safe environment where team members felt comfortable expressing themselves and taking risks.

Google implemented changes based on these findings, including team-building programs, training in emotional intelligence, and restructuring of teams to enhance psychological safety. The project served as a catalyst for other organisations to rethink their approach to team dynamics and team-building.

Conclusion: The Power of Psychological Safety.

Google's Project Aristotle demonstrated that the secret sauce to high-performing teams isn't solely about expertise or IQ but is primarily rooted in psychological safety and the ability to collaborate in an open and supportive environment. This groundbreaking research has left a profound impact on team dynamics, not just at Google but across industries worldwide. It serves as a reminder that fostering trust and psychological safety within teams is essential for unlocking their true potential and achieving remarkable results.

At Unify we are committed to supporting teams grow beyond expectation, and pride ourselves on a data-driven approach through a thorough evaluation of a team's need and requirements to excel.

James Hampton (He/Him)

James Hampton (He/Him)


Our areas of specialism.


  • Self-awareness

  • Resilience

  • Personal Development

  • Change

  • Decision making

  • Growth mindset

Team development.

  • Hybrid team working

  • Communication

  • Meetings

  • Feedback

  • Collaboration

  • Trust

Leadership development.

  • Leadership styles

  • Psychological safety

  • Leading change

  • Mission, vision, values

  • Culture

  • Mentoring