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Practice 4: Use Your Human Resources System to Create Psychological Safety

6 October, 2015 - 12:18

Organizations operate in increasingly competitive environments. The concept of “winning” is an important one, and being labeled a “winner” is usually a key to organizational advancement.

Unfortunately, failure is an integral part of innovation, so innovative cultures need to create the psychological safety whereby failure in certain circumstances is acceptable.  1

Some mistakes are more lethal than others, so mistakes that do not jeopardize the survival of the organization need to be accepted, even welcomed by leaders. Relatedly, it is more important to focus on the ideas rather than the individuals behind the ideas so that failure is not personalized. And “failure¬tolerant leaders emphasize that a good idea is a good idea, whether it comes from Peter Drucker, Reader’s Digest, or an obnoxious coworker.”  2

Once again, the human resources system can be instrumental in helping to create the psychological safety to enable innovation. In this case, the system can be designed to permit and even celebrate failure. 3 Clearly, this involves a balancing act between rewarding success and tolerating failure. Consequently, the key is to create sufficient psychological safety within a culture so that the organization can “dance on the borderline between success and failure.” 4