How do you create the perfect workplace team? In this article from the New York Times Magazine, Charles Duhigg details the surprising results of research done by Google about why some business groups work, and some don't.

Sometimes, trying to create more efficient individual workers isn't enough if they don't work well together in the office, which is often a team-based environment at most companies. According to data from The Harvard Business Review, ‘‘the time spent by managers and employees in collaborative activities has ballooned by 50% or more’’ over the last twenty years, and three-fourths of an employee's day at most companies is spent communicating with colleagues. Working in teams encourages faster innovation and better problem solving.

Five years ago, Google sought to create the perfect team. What did they discover in their quest? Duhigg writes:

The company’s top executives long believed that building the best teams meant combining the best people. No matter how researchers arranged the data, though, it was almost impossible to find patterns — or any evidence that the composition of a team made any difference. ‘‘We looked at 180 teams from all over the company,’’ Dubey said. ‘‘We had lots of data, but there was nothing showing that a mix of specific personality types or skills or backgrounds made any difference. The ‘who’ part of the equation didn’t seem to matter.’’

Turns out, the key to successful groups isn't in the personalities of the individual teams members at all, but comes from the team's "group norms."

Norms are the traditions, behavioral standards and unwritten rules that govern how we function when we gather: One team may come to a consensus that avoiding disagreement is more valuable than debate; another team might develop a culture that encourages vigorous arguments and spurns groupthink. Norms can be unspoken or openly acknowledged, but their influence is often profound. Team members may behave in certain ways as individuals — they may chafe against authority or prefer working independently — but when they gather, the group’s norms typically override individual proclivities and encourage deference to the team.

Read more >