Grow Your Family-Owned Business by Building Effective Team - Case Study Of Google's Project Aristotle

When building a family-owned business, the founder tends to know all the answers and seldom seeks advice. The family keeps strategy in private and rarely sees a need to share it with other parties involved in the business. In other words, family members are comfortable building a kingdom in their bubble.

The question is, as the business grows, is it possible for the founder to still take care of everything?

When the business begins to grow rapidly, family members begin to realize they can’t continue to do everything themselves. A family business that wants to grow certainly needs professional help to expand the business.

However, hiring professionals is not enough, solid teamwork is needed to increase employee productivity so that company targets can be achieved. An effective team will build a good corporate culture so that you can avoid the 3-generation curse that haunts family companies.

Then how do you increase team productivity?

That’s what Google wanted to learn in 2012, when it embarked on a quest to discover how to build the “perfect team”. The experiment, led by Abeer Dubey, a Director of People Analytics (HR) at Google, is called the "Aristotle Project".

What is the Aristotle Project and what are the impacts that can we apply to our family-owned business? Read the full explanation below!

Aristotle Project

Before this project, like any other organization, Google’s Executives believed that building the best teams meant a group of the best people. Well, it makes sense. The best engineer plus an MBA, throw in a Ph.D., and there you have it. The perfect team, right? 

In the words of Julia Rozovsky, Google's people analytics manager said, "We were dead wrong."

Keep in mind, a group of people is not the same as a team. What makes a group of people turn into a team is the dependency to get work completed.

Over the past two years, Google conducted hundreds of double-blind interviews with 180 teams, ranging from 3 to 50 people per team, and analyzed the data to determine the team’s effectiveness.

Read: Succession Planning for Family Business in Preparing The Next Generation

Unfortunately, there was no clear pattern of characteristics from the teams studied, so Google finally considered several intangibles factors.

While most researchers study how a team works, the Google team focuses on examining "group norms" such as traditions, standard behaviors and various unwritten rules that set on how teams function when they are together. Usually, the effects of the norm are profound.

From a different point of view, researchers at Aristotle's Project collected data related to the unwritten norms and values ​​that prevailed in the team. In other words, they collect data about every behavior that can improve the performance of a group.

As a result, the researchers found that there were five important people from the team who needed to be improved:

1. Psychology Safety: All team members have a safe space to take risks and make mistakes without fear of being embarrassed, ridiculed, or face any other consequences.

Making decisions in a team may look simple, but many feels hesitant, embarrassed, or lack the power to do so. Psychology safety must be applied to ensure that every decision taken is the best.

2. Dependability: Every team member reliably completes quality work on time.

The team contains a group of people who work together to achieve the same goal, working in a team does not mean you have to be a superhero who has to do everything yourself.

A good team is when someone feels comfortable relying on others to do something with maximum quality.

The most effective way is to clearly define the responsibilities and roles of each member of the team.

3. Structure & Clarity: Every part of the team clearly understands the roles, plans, and goals.  The goals must be specific, challenging, and attainable.

Each person on the team needs to understand where they fit and what they have to offer

4. Meaning: Work is personally important to team members. Everyone has a goal in their job (i.e., financial security, supporting their family, helping a successful team, etc.).

Ask the team member, if what they are doing also benefits them personally? If the answer is "yes", then that will bring "passion" into every given job.

Read: Growing Your Family Business with SAP Business One

5. Impact:  Team members feel that their work matters and creates changes. Team members saw that the results of their work actually contributed to the goals of the organization.

After feeling satisfied because they did something meaningful. Tell all team members that what they have done has a lot of impacts and creates a good change.

This kind of celebration creates a thought in the subconscious, when the team is working on something, they will think that what they are doing is leading to a change, with an impact that can be felt by others.


Google’s Aristotle Project is an invention at Google for building productive teams that can be applied to family-owned businesses to develop and train employees.

In the end, teams like this tend to succeed. Building the perfect team tends to be more subjective. Focusing on the 5 components above will increase the company's chances of building a solid team and avoid one mistake that can plunge the company into the curse of 3 generations.

Get more and in-depth information about teamwork succession for the family business, click this link to subscribe to an email to get more information about family business.

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