Psychological safety

– what, why and how?


Rand Blak Barawy

Are you interested in creating an effective and high-performing team, or are you merely curious about how it can be done? Creating a workplace and a social climate that foster psychological safety is key to creating effective and high-performing teams.

If we want to support organisations in becoming more fit for humans, an important part is to work with both culture and behaviour in organisations, teams and individuals. Having worked with a broad range of clients on creating effective and high-performing teams, one key approach has been to foster psychological safety.

What constitutes the effective high-performing team?

In 2012, Google launched Project Aristotle in their quest to build the effective high-performing team. They wanted to find out what the main ingredients of the effective high-performing team were and gathered some of the company’s best specialists, including statisticians, organisational psychologists, sociologist and engineers. Project Aristotle’s researchers reviewed half a century of academic studies looking at how teams worked and had also internally been collecting surveys, conducting interviews, making observations of groups and analysing statistics for almost three years.

In 2015, Project Aristotle’s researchers concluded that understanding and influencing group norms were the keys to improving the teams of the company. In line with a 2010 study (Wolley et al.), they determined traits like social sensitivity and conversational turn-taking as instrumental ingredients in an effective high-performing team. Since both traits are central aspects of the concept of psychological safety, the project team became very interested in the concept and dug into its core.