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Psychological Safety: Unlocking the Essential Power of Challenge within Organisations

July 14, 2023
Psychological Safety in the Workplace

In today’s fast-paced and competitive business world, organisations are constantly seeking ways to improve performance, productivity, and innovation. But there’s one key factor that often goes unnoticed, yet it holds tremendous power in driving organisational success: psychological safety.

This concept, championed by Timothy R. Clark and Amy Edmondson, is gaining recognition as a crucial element in fostering trust, collaboration, and growth within teams and organisations. So, let’s dive into what psychological safety is, explore its benefits, and take a closer look at Project Aristotle to understand its significance in achieving organisational excellence.

Understanding Psychological Safety

Psychological safety is all about creating an environment where team members share a belief that they can express themselves, take risks, and contribute ideas without fear of judgement, criticism, or negative consequences. It’s about making individuals feel safe to be vulnerable, ask questions, share their perspectives, challenge and admit mistakes. This culture of safety promotes open communication, better decision-making, trust, and collaboration, which ultimately leads to improved team performance and individual well-being.

The Benefits of Psychological Safety

  • Enhanced Innovation and Creativity: Psychological safety encourages diverse thinking and fosters the sharing of unique perspectives. When team members feel safe to express their ideas, we create an environment where innovation can flourish. Fresh insights, creative solutions, and a willingness to experiment become the norm, leading to new ideas and greater organisational adaptability
  • Increased Collaboration and Engagement: In a psychologically safe environment, individuals are more likely to actively participate, contribute, and collaborate. When people feel valued, respected, and heard, they become fully engaged and committed to achieving shared goals. This drives teamwork, cohesion, and synergy, resulting in higher productivity and employee satisfaction
  • Faster Learning and Adaptation: Psychological safety supports a learning-oriented culture where mistakes are seen as opportunities for growth, not grounds for punishment. Teams can openly discuss failures, analyse root causes, and learn from setbacks, enabling faster learning cycles and improved adaptability to change. This encourages continuous improvement and fuels organisational resilience
  • Improved Physical Safety: Within psychologically safe environments, employees are more likely to report accidents, and near misses without fear of punishment or negative consequences. This reporting culture allows organisations to gather valuable data on safety incidents, identify trends, and take prompt corrective actions

Project Aristotle and Psychological Safety

In their pursuit of identifying the key factors contributing to high-performing teams, Google conducted an extensive study called Project Aristotle. Surprisingly, they found that team composition and individual intelligence were not the primary determinants of team success. The number one trait of high-performing teams was in fact an environment of psychological safety.

Teams with high levels of psychological safety were found to be more productive, innovative, and successful. Individuals within these teams felt comfortable speaking up, challenging ideas, and taking risks. They experienced a sense of belonging and support that allowed them to contribute their best efforts.

Why Psychological Safety Matters in Organisations

  • It encourages Diversity and Inclusion: Psychological safety is vital for creating an inclusive environment where diverse perspectives, experiences, and backgrounds are valued. When team members feel safe to express their unique viewpoints, organisations can harness the power of diverse thinking, leading to more robust decision-making and greater adaptability.
  • It reduces Employee Turnover: A lack of psychological safety can lead to stress, anxiety, and a stifling work environment. Conversely, organisations that prioritise psychological safety experience higher employee satisfaction, retention, and loyalty. Employees who feel safe are more likely to stay, contribute their best work, and foster a positive organisational culture.
  • It drives Organisational Growth: In today’s dynamic business environment, organisations that foster a culture that encourages continuous learning, innovation, and adaptation are more likely to enjoy improved organisational success

How do you create a phsychologically safe workspace?

There are a number of ways to do this, including:

  • Modeling psychological safety: Leaders should model the behaviour they want to see in others. This means being open to feedback, admitting mistakes, and creating a culture of trust
  • Encouraging open communication: Employees should feel comfortable sharing their ideas, even if these are different from the majority. This means creating a culture where everyone’s voice is heard and valued
  • Providing feedback in a constructive way: Feedback should be given in a way that is constructive and helpful. This means avoiding personal attacks and focusing on the issue at hand
  • Celebrating successes: When employees take risks and share their ideas, it is important to celebrate their successes. This shows that their contributions are valued and signals that it is safe to speak up


Psychological safety is not just a buzzword; it is a critical factor that can transform organisations and unlock their full potential. By fostering a culture where everyone’s voice is valued, ideas are nurtured, and collaboration flourishes we can create organisations that not only thrive but also inspire greatness and make a lasting impact on the business landscape.

Further learning

We run a one day course on course on this subject. If you’d like to read more about it, please click below:

Read more about creating psychological safety in the workplace with Amy Edmondsons book ‘The Fearless Organization‘ – find the book here