Driving Innovation: The Role of Psychological Safety in the Tech Industry

Considerable prior research shows many benefits to psychologically safe workplaces, such as better decision-making, more inclusive teams, and a higher willingness to take risks….. Employers are more likely to spot the cracks in their business while there is still a chance to course-correct. Employees will be the first to notice when things aren’t working as they should. If they don’t feel they can speak up without repercussions, they’ll keep those insights to themselves and [are] very likely walk“. (Forbes)

The Essence of Psychological Safety

Psychological safety is the foundation of a culture that fosters innovation. It entails creating an atmosphere where team members feel free to express their ideas, voice concerns, and challenge conventions without the fear of reprisal. It empowers employees to take calculated risks and ensures that their voices are not only heard but valued.

The Terror of Theranos

One compelling example of the consequences of an organisation lacking in psychological safety is Theranos. The healthcare technology startup, once hailed as a groundbreaking innovator, faced allegations of fraud and unethical conduct. Former employees revealed that a climate of fear and a lack of psychological safety prevented them from voicing concerns about the accuracy and truth of the company’s testing methods. This stifling atmosphere ultimately led to Theranos’ downfall, destruction of stakeholder value and jobs, highlighting the importance of fostering psychological safety in the pursuit of innovation.

Learning from Kodak

Kodak, once the photography industry giant, is another case that resonates. While it had early digital photography technology, Kodak struggled to adapt to the digital age. The reluctance to embrace change was compounded by reports that employees who proposed innovative ideas often faced resistance from managers. This stifling environment curtailed the creativity necessary to compete in the digital era effectively.

Act now

In the fast-paced tech industry, innovation is the driving force of progress. For CTOs, cultivating a culture of psychological safety is not just a trending concept; it’s the key to unlocking and sustaining innovation, staying competitive and learning lessons.