Are You a Fearless Organization?

Jody Britten
4 min readFeb 1, 2024

For those of you I’ve been lucky to chat with, you know that I read a lot. I just finished a great book, The Fearless Organization: Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace for Learning, Innovation, and Growth, and I wanted to share a few things I was pondering.

At its core, this book is about organizational behavior and management. It emphasizes creating a workplace environment where employees feel safe to voice their opinions, experiment, and take risks without fear of punishment or humiliation.

The author, Amy Edmondson, is a professor at Harvard Business School and has talked about psychological safety at work since the late 1990s. In this book, she provides insights into how leaders can cultivate this environment, illustrating its impact on team performance and success through various case studies and research.

A few quotes from the book that stood out to me:

  • “For knowledge work to flourish, the workplace must be one where people can share their knowledge! This means sharing concerns, questions, mistakes, and half-formed ideas.”
  • “What I hope is clear at this point is that you don’t have to be the boss to be a leader. The leader’s job is to create and nurture the culture we all need to do our best work. And so anytime you play a role in doing that, you are exercising leadership.”
  • “Low levels of psychological safety can create a culture of silence. They can also create a Cassandra culture — an environment in which speaking up is belittled …”
  • “Communication frequency among coworkers also led to psychological safety. In other words, the more we talk to each other, the more comfortable we become doing so. It is important to differentiate between talking with and reporting out. Talking with creates safe spaces.”
  • “… when people have psychological safety at work, they feel comfortable sharing concerns and mistakes without fear of embarrassment or retribution. They are confident that they can speak up and won’t be humiliated, ignored, or blamed. They know they can ask questions when they are unsure about something. They tend to trust and respect their colleagues.”
  • “But for jobs where learning or collaboration is required for success, fear is not an effective motivator. Brain science has amply demonstrated that fear inhibits learning and cooperation.”

For me, the lessons in this book were many. I kept coming back to the idea that we can’t help people feel safe if we aren’t continually asking for their ideas and grabbing onto them to help our organizations innovate and improve our impact and service.

There is a part in her book where she talks about how the voice of our teams becomes the voice of our organization, and that voice can’t be directed but has to be curated.

I know some strategies I have used before can make a difference in building psychological safety in organizations…

  • Once a month, spend the first 10 minutes of meetings doing mini-chats with 2–4 people just connecting and talking with one another. Use prompts like, “What is one challenge you are experiencing right now,” or “What is one win you have had recently?”
  • Create a virtual suggested box. Have an open form where team members can continually offer suggestions. Make sure this is private, and don’t expect people to share their name or identify themselves to get the best engagement. These can be anything from suggestions on how to spend meeting time, ideas for meeting content suggestions for new training, and ideas that your team sporadically has that they think would be good for the organization.
  • Take the time to coach your team and give quality feedback. In our work with students, we know that quality feedback makes a difference, and it’s the same with our teams. I love the TAG strategy and would encourage others to check it out. I have used this with kids and adults, finding it works great for both.

This is one of the graphics that support the points that the author is making. What do you notice?

[Thanks to for the solid graphic]

This book is about honesty, taking risks, asking for help, supporting teams, and working together so that conversations and collaborations are inclusive and thoughtful and leave everyone in organizations excited and ready to move forward together.

My favorite quote throughout the book is this: “Finding out that you are wrong is even more valuable than being right because you are learning.”

Unfortunately, it is more of a norm today to have organizations that don’t allow people psychological safety, which the author identifies as a critical factor in holding back organizational impact.

If we are going to innovate and truly serve our communities, we must try to address psychological safety. Once everyone feels safe showing up and contributing, you will see remarkable changes in your organizations and communities.

Jody is a thought leader in education and a coach for others as they strive to develop clear strategies and integrate the use of data to drive innovation (especially in communities). You can keep up with her work at JodyBritten.com.

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Jody Britten

fierce mom, constant learner, writer, speaker, researcher, thinker, designer, gadget queen, advocate for learning that matters & public ed, lead with my actions