Lesson 2.16

The Principle Of Psychological Safety

Dive into this topic by watching the video, followed by key explanations below:


Key Concepts:


Getting in “The Zone” of optimal cognitive friction boils down to feeling “psychologically safe” to go against the grain.

  • Psychological safety is about being able to express yourself without fear of being kicked out of the group.

  • A team that can provide this reassurance to its members—by practicing the things we’ve been learning about in this section of the course—will maximize its chances of harnessing its cognitive diversity.

Psychological Safety is NOT the same as feeling comfortable.

  • By nature, we need discomfort in order to grow.

  • Considering different and new ideas is somewhat uncomfortable. The whole idea of cognitive friction revolves around this truth.

  • So resist the temptation to equate discomfort with a lack of safety.


We can foster psychological safety by explicitly telling people that their place in the group is secure.

  • However, actions speak louder than words when it comes to feeling safe. This is where taking micro-opportunities to reinforce psychological safety becomes powerful. For example:

    • When people put forward ideas that don’t work, or don’t “win,” praise them for helping to push the group forward. (Instead of only rewarding people for being right.)

    • Be the first to admit you could be wrong, or to announce that you’ve changed your mind.

    • Stand up for people when there are conversations about them when they aren’t present. Those who see you do this will assume (correctly, I hope!) that you have their backs, too.

    • When things go wrong, be curious rather than placing blame.

    • Share responsibility for outcomes as a member of the team, so no one person has to shoulder the psychological risk of any given failure.

We’re going to learn more about all of this in the next two Modules, when we dig into Intellectual Humility and Creating Great Culture.