Case Study

Fostering psychological safety in teams

6 pages
November 2023
Reference: IMD-7-2507

This note highlights the pivotal role of psychological safety in fostering a culture of flexibility and innovation within organizations, especially in a rapidly changing business environment. Drawing from Amy Edmondson’s seminal research, psychological safety is defined as the collective assurance felt by team members that they can openly express ideas, admit mistakes, and propose changes without fear of negative repercussions. The note delineates four critical stages of psychological safety: Inclusion safety, where individuals feel valued and integral; Learner safety, promoting a culture of growth and acceptance of the learning process; Contributor safety, where members feel their inputs are genuinely appreciated; and Challenger safety, encouraging challenges to the status quo. Leadership’s role is central to cultivating psychological safety. Leaders can promote it by framing tasks as learning challenges, acknowledging their own vulnerabilities, and fostering a culture of inquiry. The note also emphasizes the importance of regularly assessing the level of psychological safety through keen observation of team dynamics and the use of surveys. This foundational understanding of psychological safety offers organizations a pathway to enhance performance, innovation, and competitive advantage.

Learning Objective
  • Understand the concept of psychological safety and its importance in fostering a culture of innovation and flexibility.
  • Identify the four stages of psychological safety: Inclusion, Learner, Contributor, and Challenger, and recognize their role in team dynamics.
  • Grasp the pivotal role of leadership in cultivating psychological safety, emphasizing modeling behaviors and promoting inquiry.
  • Differentiate between genuine psychological safety and superficial “niceness” in team interactions.
  • Learn methods to assess the level of psychological safety within a team using observations and surveys.
Human Resources, Inclusion, Equity, Diversity, Team, Team Development
Generalized Experience
© 2023
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