The Fearless Organization: A book review by Bob Morris

The Fearless Organization: Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace for Learning, Innovation, and Growth
Amy C Edmondson
John Wiley & Sons (November 2018)

In which workplace cultures are personal growth and professional development most likely to thrive?

According to Amy Edmondson, one of the defining characteristics all healthy organizations is having a community committed to psychological safety. That is, a workplace culture with which “people are not hindered by interpersonal fear. They feel willing and able to take the inherent personal risks of candor. They fear holding back their full participation more than they fear sharing a potentially sensitive, threatening, or wrong idea. The fearless organization is one in which interpersonal fear is minimized so that team and organizational performance can be maximized in a knowledge intensive world. It is not one devoid of anxiety about the future!…In short, psychological safety is a critical source of value creation in organizations operating in a complex, changing environment.”

Edmondson is talking about a workplace culture in which principled dissent is encouraged but there is zero tolerance of incivility, of any behavior that is illegal or unethical. “Psychological Safety is not about being nice…is not a personality factor…is not just another word for trust…[and] is not about lowering performance standards.” In fact, psychological safety only thrives in a work environment of mutual respect and trust.

It is no coincidence that companies annually ranked among those most highly admired and best to work for are also annually ranked among those most profitable with the greatest cap value in their industry segment. However different they may be in most respects, all of them have created “psychological safety in their workplace for learning, innovation, and growth.” Just about all the information, insights, and counsel needed to create one are provided in this book.  However, success will require an enterprise architecture strategy as well as wide and deep support at all levels and in all areas.


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