Four Steps to Create a Psychological Safety Zone


Four Steps to Create a Psychological Safety Zone

Robyn Bolton shares an insightful article on the importance of developing psychological safety in innovation and how to foster it.

“Why doesn’t anyone bring me ideas?”

“Why doesn’t anyone ask questions during my meetings?”

“How can I get people to challenge my ideas?”

If you have asked any of these questions, you are not alone.

I hear these questions from managers to C-suite executives in every industry imaginable because they know that sharing ideas, asking questions, and challenging others are core behaviors in innovation.

The answers vary by person and the company, but all tend to fall under the umbrella of “Lack of Psychological Safety.”

No one wants to hear that the culture of their team or their organization isn’t “Psychologically Safe.” Does that mean that the culture is “Psychologically Unsafe?” That doesn’t sound good. That sounds like a lawsuit. And even if the culture isn’t “unsafe,” what does “safe” look like?

These are some of the questions that Timothy R. Clark sets out to answer in his book, “The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety: Defining the Path to Inclusion and Innovation.”

What is “Psychological Safety?”

Academics have studied Psychology Safety since the 1960s, but Amy Edmondson’s 1999 paper ushered it into daily use. Today, Psychological Safety is commonly defined as a shared belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes.

Clark goes a step further to identify four types, or stages, of Psychological Safety:

Inclusion Safety: People feel safe and accepted for who they are, including the different and unique aspects of themselves

Learner Safety: People engage in the learning process by asking questions, giving and receiving feedback, experimenting, and making mistakes

Contributor Safety: People use their skills and abilities to make a difference in the team and/or organization

Challenger Safety: People speak up, challenge the status quo, and pursue opportunities for change or improvement


Key points include:

  • Shared beliefs in psychological safety
  • How to challenge the status quo
  • Defining innovation


Read the full article, Psychology Safety: Innovation Requirement or Red Herring?, on Medium.