Michael Gates

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Creating high-performance business teams is a continual challenge. Especially when they are virtual, diverse and in different time-zones.

Google’s Project Aristotle research discovered that the best teams are not necessarily made of the best individuals, but were better able to collaborate as a ‘we’ rather than a series of ‘I’s. Here are the main characteristics the project identified:

There’s an atmosphere of high social sensibility and psychological safety. Simply, people are nice to each other.

People in the best teams tend to speak for equal amounts of time, rather than a few members dominating.

Members are persistent and brave in reminding each other to maintain the above two things.

Can we learn something from Nordic cultures – which seems to correlate to Google’s research – and apply it wherever we are from?

In the past few years, many books and articles have been published about three Nordic concepts which might usefully be applied as 3 simple rules by teams:

hygge – a Danish quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being. It fits well with psychological safety.

lagom – The Lexin Swedish-English dictionary defines lagom as “enough, sufficient, adequate, just right”. Lagom is also widely translated as “in moderation”, “in balance”, “perfect-simple”, and “suitable” The word comes from the Viking tradition of drinking just the right amount as the mead is passed round the table. In business, it could be a reminder to ensure team members contribute equally to the discussion.

Sisu – a special Finnish strength and persistent resolve to continue and overcome in the moment of adversity…an almost magical quality, a combination of stamina, perseverance, courage, and determination held in reserve for hard times. For teams it could be the determination to apply rules 1 and 2, as well as guts in general.

It’s easy to remember things in threes. Why not use the hyggelagom and sisu approach to remind us to aspire to what Google found out in its quest to create the perfect team?

Michael Gates Vice Chairman of Richard Lewis Communications



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