What is psychological safety?
Psychological safety is the “shared belief that the team is safe for interpersonal risk taking” – without interpersonal consequences (Amy Edmondson, 1999).
Psychological safety supports a productive and constructive culture of error – being able to openly discuss mistakes and learning from failure. Such a culture is something that many organizations strive for, but often fail. Why is that?
Success factor number one for cooperation
In 2016, Google conducted a study with more than 180 teams. It showed that the construct of psychological safety is the most important success factor for teams. To be clear: An atmosphere of psychological safety implies that every team member feels safe to speak up, even on uncomfortable topics, so as to enable collective progress. Team members acutally speak about mistakes and constructive criticism is offered.
Back in 1999, Amy Edmondson was already able to show the successes that are achievable when team members can address mistakes without sanctions. The only way to learn from mistakes is by openly talking about them. Other studies (e.g. those by Anderson & West) were able to show the effects of similar concepts (participative safety) on outputs such as innovation capacity.
We’re your partners
Most of us have already experienced how important it is to be able to address or admit mistakes, or at least to voice one’s opinion freely, without fear of humiliation. The road to get there might require some changes, but it is achievable.