Psychological safety and nuclear fusion have something in common they both theoretically exist.
Nuclear Fusion: Scientists have pursued harnessing nuclear fusion’s power-generating capacity for almost three-quarters of a century. In 2019, National Geographic described nuclear fusion as the “holy grail for the future of nuclear power.” Their quest continues.
Psychological Safety: The same can be said for psychological safety. Organizational researchers have pursued the harnessing of psychological safety for teams since the term was first coined in the 1960s, some 60 years ago. Perhaps psychological safety is the “holy grail” for the future of the workplace.
Since then, the hypothesis has been resurrected on several occasions with William Khan in the 1990s, Amy Edmondson in the 2000s and made famous by Google’s Project Aristotle in 2014 and an article written in the New York Times Magazine in 2016 “What Google Learned From Its Quest to Build the Perfect Team“.
Yet, just like nuclear fusion, and to my knowledge, no one has scientifically proven the existence of psychological safety in an organization to date. I could be wrong, so maybe someone could direct me to such peer-reviewed papers and the method used to prove it.
PS it is quite possible that instead of talking about what makes us safe we should be talking about what makes us unsafe, that is psychological unsafety. I think this is much easier to prove scientifically.
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