A Google G Suite lead shares a key tenet of the company's management philosophy — and any boss can use it to build an effective team

  • At Google, managers encourage employees to share rough ideas so they can find out if they're headed in the right direction.
  • Diane Chaleff, Google's G Suite lead in the office of the CTO, said this way you'll get valuable feedback on the crux of the idea. You'll also find out if anyone's working on something similar and can help you.
  • This regular exchange of ideas is part of Google's emphasis on psychological safety, or feeling comfortable enough to take risks like sharing ideas you're not fully confident in.
  • Scientists say psychologically safe teams tend to be the most effective.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

At Google, the worst thing you could do with an idea is keep it to yourself.

Instead, managers want employees to get into the habit of bouncing half-baked thoughts off each other.

"The way that we work at Google generally is focused on sharing ideas early and often," said Diane Chaleff, a G Suite lead in Google's office of the chief technology officer. "We want you to have that idea and quickly ping your friend and maybe shoot out a short email to a few folks and jot down some bullets in a document and start collaborating. You'll very quickly get feedback."

That regular exchange of ideas Chaleff described is part of Google's emphasis on psychological safety — which means employees feel comfortable taking risks, like submitting ideas before they feel fully confident in them. Scientists say psychological safety is linked to higher team performance, and Google itself has found that its most effective teams are also the psychologically safest.

Google's culture overall encourages employees to indulge their creativity. Innovations like Gmail and Google News are products of "20% time," when people can work on ideas outside their regular projects. (Business Insider previously reported that it's unclear whether 20% time still exists.)

Chaleff told Business Insider that she doesn't want employees trying to refine a thought "for 20 hours in silence" before discussing it with coworkers. That's "not super helpful," she said.

You'll want to get feedback on your idea as early as possible

In a Fast Company article, Chaleff wrote that Google has its own language to indicate how close an idea is to completion. A document can be labeled [DRAFT], [WIP], or [FINAL]. (WIP stands for "work in progress.")

Draft documents can be simply a list of bullets. People who receive this document "know to provide big-picture feedback," Chaleff wrote, "and that now's not the time to talk about the smaller points.

The benefit of sharing drafts and other rough ideas is twofold, Chaleff told Business Insider.

First, you'll get immediate feedback on whether you're heading in the right direction.

In startup lingo, the idea is your minimum viable product (MVP). If you were building a new app, you'd spend as little time, money, and energy as possible creating the most basic iteration of that app. Then you'd find some customers to use the app to gauge whether they're at all interested in it. The point is to avoid wasting precious resources building a product that no one cares about.

In a team collaboration context, the rough idea is your MVP. The coworkers you share it with are your initial customers, and their feedback gives you a sense of whether you should pursue it further.

"You're getting feedback on the crux of the idea early on," Chaleff said. That's key, she added, because "the core of the idea is what ends up shaping what we build." So you want to get it exactly right before you start executing.

Coworkers who hear your idea might connect you with people working on something similar

The second incentive for sharing early-stage ideas is that you might find people who can help you.

Chaleff said sometimes you'll get feedback along the lines of, "You need to go talk to so-and-so because actually they are already thinking about the same thing." Chaleff said she recently connected two teams who were independently working on a similar feature and could benefit from each other's expertise.

Perhaps the greatest benefit of sharing ideas early is that managers are more likely to hear the voices of more junior, or less experienced, team members. These people may bring fresh and valuable perspectives, but may also feel less confident speaking up. So it's helpful for them to know that it's ok if their idea still needs some work — and that there are other people in the company who can help bring their ideas to fruition.

"We're helping to connect the dots faster," Chaleff said.

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