Season 5: Innovating for impact

Build a culture for innovation, Abadesi Osunsade
Part 3 of 4

Why psychological safety is essential in business

In today’s workplace, employees are increasingly vocal about their needs, challenging employers to provide an innovative and inclusive culture where everyone feels they can speak up to share ideas and produce great work. This means that fostering psychological safety within teams is essential for driving innovation, collaboration and performance.

Psychological safety refers to a shared belief that team members can take interpersonal risks without fear of negative consequences, for example, your graduate trainee feels comfortable in challenging an existing process their manager has put in place, if they feel there’s a more efficient way of doing it.

When individuals feel psychologically safe, they are more likely to express their authentic selves, share diverse perspectives and contribute to an innovative, dynamic culture.

Focus on inclusive communication and emotional intelligence training

Upskilling employees can be a powerful way to improve your company culture. Offering inclusive communication and emotional intelligence training can enhance individuals’ self-awareness, empathy and their ability to manage emotions effectively. With the risk of conflict and clashes between different lived experiences – perhaps between managers and direct reports of different generations – these training exercises can increase sensitivity too, and reduce the negative impact of misunderstanding and miscommunication. By equipping team members with these skills, leaders can cultivate an environment where individuals are more attuned to their own feelings and the emotions of others. Greater compassion and empathy indicate a team with high levels of psychological safety.

Let tech help you gather feedback

Innovative feedback technologies, such as feedback collection platforms, provide real-time insights to individuals and teams. What better way to identify areas of improvement than by having a clear and consistent feedback loop in place inviting suggestions from your team? These tools facilitate ongoing feedback exchanges, promote constructive communication, and encourage continuous learning and development. By creating a culture of feedback, leaders can foster openness, vulnerability and trust, essential elements of psychological safety.

What are the three most valuable data points you could get from your team today? Set up and send out an anonymous form using Google Forms, Typeform or Airtable and ask:

1. What is one thing about our culture you think works well?
2. What is one thing about our culture that doesn’t work so well?
3. If you could implement a new cultural policy today, what would it be?

Give Virtual Reality (VR) empathy training a go

VR empathy training is gaining popularity in teams and businesses of all sizes. These unique experiences immerse individuals in simulated scenarios designed to develop empathy and perspective-taking skills, for example, a senior leader can step into the virtual shoes of a more junior team mate to experience an awkward encounter from their perspective – and vice-versa. By experiencing different perspectives first-hand, team members gain a deeper understanding of their colleagues’ experiences, challenges and perspectives, and greater empathy.

Discover inclusive AI decision-making tools

Collaborative decision-making platforms leverage AI algorithms and data analytics to facilitate inclusive decision-making processes. These tools ensure that all voices are heard, perspectives are considered and decisions are made transparently and equitably. By democratising decision-making, team members are empowered to contribute their own ideas and opinions, fostering a sense of ownership and inclusion within the team.

Carry out psychological safety assessments

Increasingly popular in teams, especially those companies scaling up and working cross-functionally, psychometric assessments and surveys can measure psychological safety within teams and identify areas for improvement. In larger teams, one department could have higher levels of psychological safety than others. Assessments will help you close the gap and create a consistent, inclusive culture to foster innovation. These assessments provide leaders with valuable insights into team dynamics, communication patterns and areas of development. By proactively addressing issues related to psychological safety, leaders can create environments where all team members feel safe, valued and empowered to express themselves authentically.

Get the most out of your communication platforms

Innovative communication platforms, such as Slack, popular with teams and used for everyday messaging, now incorporate features such as anonymous feedback channels, inclusive language suggestions and real-time translation capabilities. These could be native within the messaging software, or available by investing in add-ons or plug-ins. These platforms ensure that communication is respectful, inclusive and accessible to all team members, regardless of their background or preferences. By fostering inclusive communication practices, leaders promote a culture of openness, transparency and respect within the team.

Invest in cognitive diversity training

Cognitive diversity is all about recognising the value in diverse thinking, and how a range of perspectives positively impacts the bottom line. These training programmes help teams understand and leverage the perspectives, thinking styles and problem-solving approaches of diverse individuals. By recognising the value of cognitive diversity, leaders encourage team members to embrace their differences and collaborate more effectively. This appreciation for diverse perspectives enhances creativity, innovation and inclusivity within the team.

Innovative and inclusive teams are built on a foundation of psychological safety, where individuals feel respected, valued and empowered to contribute openly about projects and policies as their authentic selves. By embracing the latest innovations in psychological safety, leaders can create environments where diversity is celebrated, differences are embraced, and all team members feel a sense of belonging and inclusion.