Research Alert

Psychological safety has long been recognized in the context of information sharing, risk taking and collaboration, but its effects on the process of innovation have not been tested. A study published in the International Journal of Innovation Management investigates the role of psychological safety as an internal resource that managers could leverage to support a firm’s capabilities to innovate.

Study Title: How Psychological Safety Enables Innovation: The Effects on Potential and Realised Absorptive Capacity 

Radoslaw Nowak, Ph.D., a management studies expert at New York Institute of Technology, authored the the study. Its empirical analysis is based on data from over 100 U.S. hospitals to reveal what mechanisms work for management to enable some desired processes within a firm to positively impact innovation.

Highlights:

  • The study’s findings reveal that psychological safety will reinforce a firm’s capacity to exploit newly created knowledge, increasing its overall capacity to innovate. So, managers must take action to create a non-threatening work environment that promotes risk-taking, information sharing, collaboration, and high levels of employee contribution to problem solving.
  • Developing this kind of workplace may require substantial investments into enhancing mechanisms of social integration. For example, organizations should consider implementing new policies to establish and communicate accepted standards of employee behaviors to facilitate social interactions among employees.
  • Management could also consider changing a firm’s reward systems to generate financial incentives to promote and support desired employee behaviors.
  • Increasing social integration may also require making cultural adjustments—altering accepted social norms, reflecting employees’ collective perception of “how things are getting done in our firm.” This likely requires strong support and involvement of top leadership, clear internal communications of the rationale, strong managerial engagement (e.g., corrective performance feedback), and investments into formal training and development programs.
  • Finally, increasing social integration could potentially adversely impact a firm’s workplace diversity initiatives (and vice versa). Managers in organizations with workplace DEI strategies should proactively recognize such challenges while planning and setting their organization’s business goals.

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