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Desert Highway
Thoughtful writing authored and shared by members of of the Thinking Collaborative community to support others on the journey.

Sustaining the Journey

Psychological Safety in Groups

Authored By:

Thinking Collaborative


March 28, 2016

Project Aristotle, at Google, studied factors that contributed to successful work groups. The only common variable found across success teams was that they had well established norms. Two norms, specifically were identified in the norms. This week we consider the second finding called “social sensitivity” or psychological safety. Amy Edmondson, a Harvard Business School professor, defines psychological safety as, “shared belief held by members of a team that the team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking.” This relates directly to the Adaptive Schools norm of Paying Attention to Self and Others. In addition, Cognitive Coaches and those trained in the 7 Norms of Collaboration understand how the other norms also increase psychological safety. For instance, if I know you are intentional in paraphrasing, I receive the message that you are genuinely trying to understand me. When you pause to give me think time, I understand you value me and my thinking. By presuming positive intention, a group member know s/he is not being judged, but instead is accepted as an important group member and contributor.

What are some ways your own work group behaves that scaffold for psychological safety? What might be interfering with the feeling of safety? How might you invite reflection on the concept of psychological safety in your work place? How might psychological safety relate to the dynamical principles in Adaptive Schools?

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