Embedding Innovation: inclusion and the importance of psychological safety

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Most companies understand the value of diversity and innovation – diverse organisations perform better and innovation is a competitive advantage.

Opinion Piece by Analah Fawcett, Principal Consultant, CSR Lead

Those a little more focused on the task at hand also appreciate there’s a healthy relationship between the two, in that innovation requires cognitive diversity (i.e. difference in thought and perspective) and there’s a correlation between cognitive diversity and personal identity.

Diverse teams – with diverse people – are more creative, and you need diversity to drive ideation and innovation.

More diversity then?

Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as that.

Without the right structure and culture some voices are easily lost, along with the benefits of diversity. Inclusion is about ensuring everyone isn’t just present, but actively engaged and confident to contribute, bringing their whole selves into the creative process.

What else do you need?

What is required is psychological safety: the shared belief that the team is safe for interpersonal risk tasking. After all, there’s no innovation without risk.

In psychologically safe teams, members feel accepted and respected, and they don’t fear negative consequences to their self-image, status or career (i.e. it’s okay to fail).

Psychological safety can help leverage diversity, aid innovation, and is important to establish a tolerance for failure. In fact, Google – ranked the 2nd most innovative company in 2018 (after Apple) – found psychological safety was the most powerful predictor of team success.

How do you establish it?

That’s an article for another time.

In the meantime, know it’s not enough to employ a diverse workforce, and it’s not enough to innovate. For a company to truly benefit from diversity and innovation the two need to come together, in a ‘culture of innovation’ that promotes psychological safety.

How do I get in touch to discuss this?

To find out how we can help you with strategic advice and solutions for your change journey, please contact consulting@chaucer.com or call us on +44 (0) 203 934 1099 in UK/Europe, or +1 713 821 1783 in the USA.