Fearless Pioneers Talking Psychological Safety – Amy Edmonson

Amy Edmonson
Novartis Professor of Leadership and Management, Harvard Business School

About Amy

Amy Edmondson is a scholar and professor in the field of leadership and organizational behavior. Her work has had a significant impact on the understanding and development of teamwork and learning in organizations. Author of the influential book “The Fearless Organization: Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace for Learning, Innovation, and Growth.” .

Q1 Why do you believe psychological safety is important?

A1: A psychological safe workplace leads to the following benefits for the organisation:


 Psychological safety creates an environment where individuals feel safe to speak up, share their ideas, ask questions, and voice concerns without fear of retribution or embarrassment. This leads to improved collaboration, better problem-solving, and the exchange of diverse perspectives.


When employees feel psychologically safe, they are more willing to take risks, experiment with new approaches, and learn from failures. This promotes a culture of continuous improvement and adaptability , enabling it to respond effectively to changing circumstances and innovate.


Teams that operate in psychologically safe environments experience better performance outcomes. When team members feel safe, they are more likely to collaborate, share knowledge, support one another, and leverage the collective intelligence of the group.


Psychological Safety positively impacts employee well-being by reducing stress, anxiety, and burnout. When individuals feel safe at work, they are more likely to experience job satisfaction, engage in their tasks, and have a sense of psychological well-being.

Q2 Which organisational layer and enabler are most important to psychological safety?

A2. Team amd Empathy. Teams are the locus of the most important work in organizations and empathy builds mutual understanding – which builds a willingness to take risks and respond to them productively.



Q3. What do you think are the biggest challenges in creating psychological safety?

A3. There are many barriers to creating psychological safety, at all levels of the organisation.

It is important to note that eliminating a climate of fear is a journey. Like setting sail on a journey to an upwind mark, it’s not a straight path.  The boat eventually arrives at its destination, but only having taken large tacks and small pivots on the way to counter shifting tides and winds. That, in itself, can create anxiety.

For those that seek certainty are comfortable with the devil they know, the fear of failure and the fear of uncertainty makes the journey towards psychological safety difficult to embark on. To overcome this anxiety, leaders at every level of the organisation need to reframe the definition of success and failure, perfection doesn’t come from a “right first time” mindset.

People at every level of the organisation need to embrace failure and be ok with vulnerability, reframing every task is a learning opportunity. That requires an open mindset and behaving with humility, empathy and curiosity. Limitations like narcissm, low emotional intelligence and hubris make it difficult for people to behave in this way.