The Fearless Organization

The Fearless Organization

Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace for Learning, Innovation, and Growth

Wiley, 2018 more...

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  • Analytical
  • Applicable
  • Hot Topic


Leadership expert Amy Edmondson defines a fearless organization as one in which people feel psychologically safe – enjoying protection from ridicule or penalties when they share their ideas, feedback and constructive criticisms. Where this happens, firms benefit from better ideas, greater risk taking, more learning and fewer disastrous decisions. Few firms, however, exhibit fearlessness. Leaders’ conscious and subconscious behaviors – including actions, words and even subtle cues – suppress alternative views. Employees won’t share ideas and opinions for fear of looking foolish, offending others, damaging relationships or losing their jobs. Edmondson’s deep if sometimes repetitive exploration of the harmful repercussions of self-censorship is a valuable addition to books on leadership, employee engagement and HR. Her insights will benefit leaders at every level. By taking the actions she recommends, leaders can substantially improve their teams, divisions and organizations as well as their employees’ lives.


Safety First

Imagine a workplace where people feel free to share their reactions, opinions and constructive criticism without fear of reprisal – where all ideas, questions and feedback elicit appreciation and an earnest response instead of rebuke or ridicule. Imagine how organizations in creative or knowledge-based industries could benefit from having everyone’s ideas. Imagine how many lives hospitals could save if nurses felt not only safe but obligated to question other nurses and physicians respectfully. Imagine how the United States could have avoided the Columbia and Challenger space shuttle disasters, if only junior engineers had felt secure enough to raise their concerns.

Most organizations pay lip service to psychological safety, but don’t provide it. This discourages risk taking, idea sharing and rigorous decision making. In fearless organizational cultures, people feel ethically obligated to speak up, share knowledge and ideas, and offer constructive feedback. This accelerates learning and knowledge sharing among employees.

Welcoming ideas – and recognizing...

About the Author

Amy Edmondson teaches leadership at Harvard Business School. Her research into leadership, teams and psychological safety has put her on the Thinkers 50 global list since 2011. 

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