Pro Yearly is on sale from $80 to $50! »

Psychological safety in design: The role of leadership in creating optimal climates for innovation

Psychological safety in design: The role of leadership in creating optimal climates for innovation



May 14, 2020


  1. Leander Kreltszheim, Mission Australia RMIT University, Master of Design Futures

    Design Leadership 2020 Psychological Safety in Design: The role of leadership in creating optimal climates for innovation
  2. Overview • What is psychological safety? • What does this

    look like in a design environment? Why is it so important to design and innovation? • How can leaders increase psychological safety in their teams?
  3. What is Psychological Safety? • Amy Edmondson, Harvard University (1991):

    “… a shared belief held by members of a team that the team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking.” • Being human and recognising others as human. • Project Aristotle (Google).
  4. What might psychological safety look like? • Genuinely celebrate team

    diversity • Seek and provide feedback • Ask for help or clarification • Experiment and test out ideas • Admit to and are tolerant of mistakes in order to learn • Question ‘how we do things’ • Actively listen and empathise • Recognise and expect dissent • Have rapport between team members • Are afraid of looking ignorant or incompetent • Don’t ever voice a different opinion • View all mistakes as failure • Are anxious about how you appear to others, especially those senior to you • Are worried about developing reputation as ‘not a team player’ • Always agree with the majority • Have your ideas constantly shut down
  5. Building up the stages of psychological safety • Dr Timothy

    Clarke, The Four Stages of Psychological Safety (2020)
  6. Level 1: Inclusion Safety Level 4: Challenger Safety Level 3:

    Contributor Safety Level 2: Learner Safety I feel safe to share my different skills, strengths and ways of thinking without feeling like an outsider or that I don’t fit in. I feel safe to ask questions and admit that I don’t know everything without feeling like others think I’m ignorant. I feel safe to use my learnings to make suggestions in my team and provide feedback without feeling like I’m being intrusive or critical. I feel safe, even expected, to challenge the status quo and think creatively without people thinking I’m negative or an upstart.
  7. Why is psychological safety important in innovation? • Three examples:

    a) Differing and discrete modes of thinking b) A ‘fail fast, learn fast’ mentality c) Opportunity for radical collaboration
  8. (a) Differing and discrete modes of thinking • Risk of

    ‘group think’ • No appetite to follow intuition or ‘hunches’ • Fewer insights and less novel solutions • More ideas and more creative ideas • Consideration of ideas that competitors haven’t thought of • Option to building upon others’ ideas Low level of psychological safety High level of psychological safety
  9. 2. ‘Fail fast, learn fast’ mentality Low level of psychological

    safety High level of psychological safety
  10. 3. Radical collaboration • Limited inclusion of diverse backgrounds, experiences

    and thinking styles • Adhere with the status quo • Low empathy, defensiveness of own expertise • Misalignment with team purpose • Leveraging the combined (inclusive) knowledge and experience of individuals • Leading to more creative insights and ideas Low level of psychological safety High level of psychological safety
  11. • Psychological safety starts with you. • Increasing psychological safety

    does not mean reducing quality nor accountability. • Clarke: “Increase intellectual friction to solve problems and come up with ideas, while also reducing social friction.” What’s the role of a leader?
  12. Things to do today… ü Watch Amy Edmondson’s 2014 TEDx

    Talk and reflect on areas to lean into ü Share what you have learnt with three colleagues external to your team ü Set yourself a reading list around psychological safety ü Be honest with yourself about how your practice may impact the psychological safety in your team. (If you’re unsure, ask your team!)
  13. … in the next 2 weeks ü Actively listen and

    observe to learn what makes each team member unique and feel valued ü Help team members to connect their contributions to the overall team goal ü Be vulnerable and share what you have unlearnt or are struggling with ü Be curious rather than judgmental about mistakes – what can we learn from them?
  14. ü Develop a shared and explicit language around psychological safety

    with your team ü Assign ‘dissent’ to team members on a project – and recognize them for it ü Schedule 1:1 time with team members to ask about needs and challenges ü Support team members on ‘stretch’ assignments ü Honestly assess your own responses to a culture of challenge, risk-taking and autonomy. … in the next 1-3 months
  15. Final comments • Creating high psychological safety is an opportunity.

    • Role modelling is key. • Be genuine. … and thank you.
  16. Reading list • Amy Edmondson • The Fearless Organization (2019)

    • Psychological Safety and Learning Behaviours in Work Teams (1999) • TEDx (2004) • Timothy R. Clarke The Four Stages of Psychological Safety (2020) • Google Project Aristotle • Microsoft The Art of Teamwork
  17. Amy Edmondson, 2019 Apathy Zone Learning & High Performance Zone

    Anxiety Zone Comfort Zone ACCOUNTABILITY PSYCH. SAFETY