Psychological safety is critical for your business because it’s critical for your people. It’s the key element driving team and business performance in the modern workplace.

In today’s knowledge economy we require people to be creative, make complex decisions, innovate, learn, problem-solve, collaborate and more. These are demanding tasks which are undermined or made impossible if the team and business environment don’t support them.

Psychological Safety is the Number 1 issue supporting these business goals. It’s measurable, evidence-based, and pragmatic, with a strong business case.

Creating Psychological Safety takes involvement and commitment, but the rewards are worth it.

Psychological Safety is a shared belief held by members of a team that the team is safe for interpersonal risk taking

Prof. Amy Edmondson
Harvard University

What is Psychological Safety?

Prof. Amy Edmondson

It’s the feeling we can speak up, take risks, ask questions (including hard questions), debate, identify problems and make mistakes without fear of humiliation, censorship, and embarrassment.

Prof. Edmondson says “while many companies are investing in talent to compete in today’s knowledge economy, the best talent is wasted if people are not able to speak up. The human instinct to ‘fit in’ and ‘go along’ works against the continuous flow of new ideas, new solutions and critical thought necessary for companies to stay innovative”.

How long has this been an idea?

Work by Schein and Bennis in the 1960s, W.E. Deming through to the 1980s and William Kahn in the 1990s laid a solid foundation for the concept. Of itself, it’s not a new thing.

But it was initial work on medication errors in the mid-1990s that led to 20 years of research and formal development of the concept for teams and groups. Prof. Edmondson was part of an interdisciplinary team researching the effects of teamwork on rates of medical errors.

They assumed that more efficient and effective teams would report fewer errors.

The results showed the opposite.

Highly skilled and effective teams reported even more errors.

The difference was that the high reporting teams functioned extremely well as teams. They understood each other’s roles. They shared failures. They talked about how to improve. They weren’t afraid of challenging sacred cows. They asked questions of each other. Together, this gave them confidence to speak up and identify errors, so that they could improve.

They weren’t paralysed by fear into hiding errors. They were prepared to stretch, grow and innovate.

People flourish when the environment is safe for them to take risks.

What are the benefits?

Psychological safety generates results. Research shows the benefits of a psychologically safe workplace as:

  1. Increased likelihood of successful innovation, which results in reduced time-to-market.
  2. An increased ability to learn from mistakes, resulting in fewer problems or outages, better quality, and improved governance and controls.
  3. Increased reporting of concerns and security issues, which leads to lowered risk of security, health and safety or non-compliance incidents.
  4. Increased employee engagement, resulting in decreased churn rates and lower costs related to recruitment and absenteeism.
  5. Improved reputation resulting in an enhanced ability to recruit the best people.
  6. Increased profitability as a direct result items 1-5.

What it isn’t

Psychological safety is about performance and thus how organisations can improve, becoming learning organisations that are constantly developing. It’s aimed at developing both people and organisations. Psychological Safety does not include:

  • lowering standards
  • eliminating accountability
  • avoiding conflict
  • removing targets and KPIs
  • simply being nice all the time.

On the contrary, you’d enforce standards, keep people accountable, generate productive conflict when necessary, sharpen targets and KPIs and be direct and candid.

Now what?

Previous attendees include banks, schools, investment and finance companies, training organisations and others, interested in developing the skills and environment for outstanding performance. We work with leaders, teams and individuals.

Our introductory workshop will introduce you to the central ideas. You’ll discover:

  1. The background of Psychological Safety and why it’s so crucial
  2. How Psychological Safety and Unsafety impact your teams and their performance
  3. Key ways to assess Psychological Safety
  4. How you can start, immediately, to improve the context for your people

All workshops include time for questions, a reading list, and a workbook.

From the introductory workshop, we provide a range of options, from team sessions, to 1:1 mentoring, to a fully supported learning programme to embed Psychological Safety as a key foundation in your business. We strongly recommend more than a one and done approach as a more certain way to achieve a return on your expectations.


Let’s start with an appointment for a coffee.