Melbourne Business School News Why the best ideas depend on psychological safety in the workplace

Why the best ideas depend on psychological safety in the workplace

The best way to bring out ideas at work is by letting people feel safe to express themselves in teams, says leadership expert Aviva Berzon.

"With teamwork being such a constant feature around us, and with so many cross-functional teams, it is vital to understand what is psychological safety and how can we create it," she says.

Aviva is Lead Learning Consultant in the Organisational Learning Group at Melbourne Business School, who believes that psychological safety is an important factor for encouraging innovation.

Research pioneered by Amy Edmondson and popularised by Google has found that creating a psychologically safe workplace adds to team performance, and that the best performing teams have two features in common – equity of communication and emotional sensitivity.

These factors aren't just nice to have – they play an important role in surfacing the best ideas from a diverse group of people.

"The way I define an effective relationship, or interpersonal connection, is a relationship that deals well with difference – which doesn't mean it's all polite, necessarily," says Aviva.

"You might actually have teams where people don't like each other, but that's OK if you can have enough respect and trust to allow the ideas to emerge. And the way to do that is to make it OK to say something that's wrong, potentially, or that people disagree with.

"Then you can get the different thoughts from different people who have very different lenses, and that is where you get diversity of thought and, ultimately, innovation."

To build psychological safety, Aviva says leaders need to take time to focus on the team itself and the experience of each member, as well as the immediate tasks at hand – but doing so will pay off in the long run.

"It's almost like credit in a bank, or a jar. Every time you acknowledge them or support them, you put a coin in the jar. The jar keeps filling and filling. The jar doesn't fill overnight, but it is filling incrementally.

"And when exceptions need to be made, it's not going to be catastrophic because the foundation of trust and mutual respect, and an ability to listen and ask questions and care, that's already there."

Watch the above video interview with Aviva to learn more.

Aviva presents on the Managing and Leading Change, Thriving Through Change (online) and General Management Program courses, as well as our Custom Solutions programs.

To find out about studying at Melbourne Business School, visit our Degree Programs and Short Courses pages, or discover how we design Custom Solutions with organisations.