Development of a training course to boost psychological safety in teams
Psychological safety is fundamental to team learning and innovation. To enable teams to work specifically on strengthening a positive team climate, researchers have developed a training programme that can be used independently by teams.
- Lead school School of Engineering and Computer Science
- Institute Institute for Data Applications and Security (IDAS)
- Research unit IDAS / Management Science, Innovation, Sustainability and Entrepreneurship (MSIE)
- Funding organisation Innosuisse
- Duration (planned) 01.01.2020 - 01.11.2021
- Project management Prof. Dr. Ina Goller
- Head of project Prof. Dr. Ina Goller
- Project staff Rahel Tscharner
- Keywords Psychological safety, team development
Sharing ideas and new insights, tracking down and uncovering mistakes, asking uncomfortable questions – such behaviour is conducive to learning new things and fostering innovation. However, actions of this nature also entail a certain social risk. Other team members may feel attacked or accuse the person who is rocking the boat of incompetence. Teams in which it is possible to take this kind of social risk possess a high degree of psychological safety. All studies undertaken to date have been concerned only with describing what psychological safety is, what type of behaviour it involves and what positive effects are associated with it. There has never been a properly tested, validated team-development tool that could be used to specifically boost psychological safety in teams.
Course of action
Now, just such a tool has been developed by a team of researchers from BFH and ZHAW in a research project supported by Innosuisse. Based on findings from basic research and their own investigations, the researchers created a series of short exercises for teams. The series of exercises was then tested by a total of 50 teams of between four and 22 members. Each week, the participants were sent a task by email, called a ‘Nudge’, which took about a quarter of an hour to complete. Participants were encouraged to practise the recommendations every day on the job. There were three different types of exercise: Skills Exercises, where a new behaviour is tried out; Reflection Exercises, where the team members are asked to think about a specific aspect; and Team Exercises, where something new is worked out in the team or new ways of behaving are tried out. During the project, interim assessments were carried out every two months by means of questionnaires. The trial set-up also included a control group of 12 teams from the participating employers. These teams did not complete any exercises and were only required to fill out questionnaires on team development. This gave the researchers comparative data to identify and exclude changes in psychological safety that occur randomly and without targeted influence.
The surveys delivered statistical proof of the effect of the training on psychological safety and team performance. The complete training course, comprising 24 exercises, including instructions, is available to the public free of charge. https://www.psych-safety.org/en