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The Water Cooler

A blog of fresh ideas and findings from organizational leaders and researchers on how they’re making work better, shared regularly.

How incivility shuts down our brains at work

Incivility is like being trapped inside a fog. Even if we're just witnesses, it can put us in a cloud of negativity and have profound effects on our mindset, attentiveness, and performance.

Teaching improv to scientists to help them storytell with data

All the data in the world won’t help you make decisions if you can’t use it to influence decision makers. Whether you’re a scientist or an HR analyst, knowing how to communicate and tell stories using data is key.

How the Saturday Night Live team keeps it safe (and funny)

The personalities on Saturday Night Live’s first season seem like they could have been a disastrous team. But SNL not only had a great first season, it’s also become a successful institution despite constant cast changes. So how did they do it?

New guide and tools to understand team effectiveness

When Google set out to understand what makes for an effective team, the researchers thought team composition would be most important. But it turned out that how a team interacts is far more important than who is on the team.

Why psychological safety matters and what to do about it

Speaking up at work can be difficult. People worry that their boss or colleagues won’t like what they have to say. As a result, people hold back on everything from good ideas to great questions. But by fostering psychological safety, all employees can feel safe to speak up.

What makes one team smarter than another?

From Olympic hockey teams to presidential cabinets, we tend to focus on the individuals when trying to predict team performance. But research shows that measuring collective intelligence is a far better indicator of success than any individual's performance.

What this Empire writer learned from Tim Burton about creativity

When trying to get creative with a team of creatives, how does Hollywood brainstorm? Wendy Calhoun, who has written for Empire, Justified, Nashville, and more, explains the creative process that happens in writers’ rooms.

Why the best people don’t mean the best teams

The Justice League has it wrong. The best teams aren’t necessarily all the superstar (or superhero) performers. They are the ones with the most diversity, research shows.

Teams in space!

Think your office is crowded? Imagine being locked in a four-bedroom house with six of your colleagues for TWO AND A HALF years. That’s what getting to Mars will take and it will require a lot of teamwork.

Nudge people to encourage ethical behavior

Is it possible to make people act more ethically? Dr. Sreedhari Desai, assistant professor at UNC, has been researching how small behavioral nudges can increase ethical behavior in the workplace, from auto shops to office spaces.

Work, Email, Distraction, Repeat: Switching tasks is ruining your workflow

You’re working on a report and the ping of an inbound email pulls you away. Soon, you find yourself checking your social feeds, the weather, and the news. Sound familiar? Research shows that our attention span for digital tasks is only 40 seconds.

“Culture Engineer” Astro Teller on failure and brilliance

“If you can’t afford crazy, you can’t afford brilliant.” Astro Teller, a “culture engineer” and the captain of Alphabet's moonshot factory, described how a culture that rewards teams for failure can support world-changing innovation.

The Roofshot Manifesto

Google’s “moonshot factory” is inspiring and ambitious, but there’s a less talked-about route to many of Google’s great achievements -- the consistent, short-term, incremental “roofshots” that make our products better year after year.

Watch: Google’s researchers on what makes an effective team

Collaborative teams do much of the work at organizations everywhere, but what makes a team effective? Google’s People Analytics group set out to answer this question and it turns out the how matters more than who.

Fighting incivility with machine learning at Alphabet’s Jigsaw

The dream of the internet is to have a place where people can share their ideas respectfully. In reality, individuals can be so loud, rude, and abusive that serious discourse is impossible. But by enhancing community norms with machine learning we can start to scale civility.

Tune in Wednesday @ 11am PT to talk teams

Google’s People Analytics researchers Julia Rozovsky and Abeer Dubey will be talking about their study of effective teams live on Wednesday, June 22 at 11am PT. Tune in to see their presentation and ask your questions.

How Mr. Mom became a stay at home dad

My colleague had a baby and her husband decided to take a 12-month leave from his job to stay home with the newborn. We, her co-workers, were all surprised, if not shocked.

Riot Games Case Study: Assessing toxicity in the workplace

Riot Games, maker of one of the world's most popular video games, has helped their gamers battle in-game toxicity and wondered if that experience could help them identify toxic behaviour in their workplace.

How data can improve bike commuting

More people are biking to work than ever before. The number of trips made by bicycle in the U.S. rose from 1.7 billion in 2001 to 4 billion in 2009, and since the year 2000, bicycle commuting rates in large bike-friendly communities has increased by 105%.

Need inspiration? Watch the re:Work 2016 event videos

Check out what some of the leading academics, business leaders, and pioneers are saying about the future of work, people analytics, and how we can all make work better.