In many companies innovation and agility are more than core values. They are the life blood of the business in a competitive environment. Yet while many people who work in these companies espouse those values, they suffer in toxic teams. They fear making mistakes because that can get punished like a crime. That kills innovation, because innovation and psychological safety go hand in hand.
Amy Edmondson from Harvard has spent decades researching learning and innovation in organisations. In her book, The Fearless Organization: Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace for Learning, Innovation, and Growth, she illuminates the link between innovation, psychological safety, and group dynamics. She also offers hands on guidance on how to build an environment where innovation and growth will happen.
What is psychological safety, and why does it matter?
In a nutshell, psychological safety means feeling safe to be radically candid, disagree, point out mistakes, take risks, own up to mistakes, and ask for help.
When we do feel safe, it is because we know that we will not be punished for speaking up.
In many organisations, most people only speak up when they are quite sure that their higher ups will positively receive what they have to say.
Psychological safety makes or breaks companies.
And Amy Edmondson shares the three ground rules for creating psychological safety in this insightful podcast with HBR IdeaCast:
1 Set the stage
Be clear about the strategic objective and get everyone on the same page about what you want to achieve.
2 Invite engagement
To invite people to speak up once is not enough. You need to be proactive and invite participation again and again.
3 Really listen
People only speak up and share openly when they believe that their leaders care about them. All of the above is in vain, if leaders don’t actually listen, fully open to what they have to say. This is harder than most people are aware of and might be the most underrated leadership skill.