Amy Edmondson

Inquire About This Speaker

Authority on Psychological Safety and Team Learning in the Workplace; Best-selling Author, “The Fearless Organization” (2018); Professor of Leadership and Management, Harvard Business School

Biography

At no other point in recent history has psychological safety been more important – not only in the workplace, but in every area of society due to the pandemic. Such an environment is requiring leaders across sectors to reconsider the rules and tools they apply when managing teams. As they work on strategies to successfully move business forward, they must also address the elevated concerns employees now have around physical safety, job security, mental health, family life and isolation. All of these pressing issues make the important work of Harvard Business School (HBS) Professor Amy Edmondson even more timely and relevant.

Edmondson, a renowned expert on organizational learning and leadership, has been studying psychological safety and workplace behaviors for over 20 years. During that time, her work has helped major firms vastly improve performance by building an environment of psychological safety, transparency and collaborative teaming, which ultimately leads to more effective operations, invested employees and a healthier bottom line. She shares a handful of representative case studies in her 2018 bestselling book, “The Fearless Organization.”

As the Novartis Professor of Leadership and Management at HBS – a chair established to support the study of human interactions that lead to the creation of successful enterprises – Edmondson helps organizations identify barriers to success that are often hidden inside a workplace culture by ensuring people feel safe to speak up about problems they see and welcome to offer suggestions for doing things better, without fear of reprisal.

“Absent data on what’s not working, it’s all but impossible to know what to fix and how to fix it. No data, no progress,” wrote Edmondson in a March, 2020 Harvard Business Review article. “It takes courage to choose transparency — and wisdom to know that the choice is the right one for achieving the goals that matter to all.”

Over the years, Edmondson and her colleagues have conducted numerous studies showing the progress made at companies where problems were “placed firmly in bright sunlight” and highlighting the catastrophes that ensued when they were not. The results further confirmed that organizations that create paths for speaking up are more effective in dealing with challenges of every kind.

While any organization can be classified as a complex, error-prone system, Edmondson sees hospitals as particularly revealing case studies since activities move quickly and the stakes are high. One of her cases involved a hospital setting rife with finger pointing and blame that made it extremely difficult for anyone to speak up about mistakes and problems. Edmondson documents how a new COO worked to shift the culture by reframing the language around problems, changing words like “error” to “accident” and “investigation” to “study.” This moved failure analyses from an exercise in “who did it?” to a neutral “what happened?” which, in turn, gave employees a comfort level with reporting problems and superiors the information they needed to address issues and make changes.

“When the bad news starts pouring in — whether reporting crimes in a city, medical errors in a hospital, or new patient cases in a pandemic — this actually means you’ve jumped over your first hurdle to success,” says Edmondson. “With accurate information, people can turn their attention and skills to the challenges of developing novel solutions to the newly visible problems. Rather than living with false confidence that all is well, leaders and subject matter experts alike can instead get to work on what needs to be done.”

And for those companies who believe everything is fine, Edmondson warns that may not be good enough, and certainly won’t be five years from now.

“You can be part of a great organization that is still a complex, error-prone system,” says Edmondson. “Leaders must assume around every corner is a potential problem or a chance to do something better. The idea is to flip thinking from ‘we don’t have a problem’ to “how can we improve?”

# # #

Amy C. Edmondson is the Novartis Professor of Leadership and Management at the Harvard Business School. She studies teaming, psychological safety and organizational learning, and her articles have been published in numerous academic and management outlets, including Administrative Science Quarterly, Academy of Management Journal, Harvard Business Review and California Management Review. Her most recent book, “The Fearless Organization: Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace for Learning, Innovation and Growth” (Wiley, 2019), offers a practical guide for organizations serious about success in the modern economy and has been translated into 11 languages.

Edmondson has been recognized by the biannual Thinkers50 global ranking of management thinkers since 2011, and most recently was ranked #3 in 2019; she also received that organization’s Breakthrough Idea Award in 2019, and Talent Award in 2017. Her prior books – “Teaming: How Organizations Learn, Innovate and Compete in the Knowledge Economy” (Jossey-Bass, 2012), “Teaming to Innovate” (Jossey-Bass, 2013) and “Extreme Teaming” (Emerald, 2017) – explore teamwork in dynamic organizational environments. In “Building the Future: Big Teaming for Audacious Innovation” (Berrett-Koehler, 2016), she examines the challenges and opportunities of teaming across industries to build smart cities.

Edmondson received her PhD in organizational behavior, AM in psychology and AB in engineering and design from Harvard University. Before her academic career, she was Director of Research at Pecos River Learning Centers, where she worked on transformational change in large companies, and in the early 1980s, she worked as Chief Engineer for the legendary architect/inventor Buckminster Fuller.

Amy Edmondson is available to advise your organization via virtual and in-person consulting meetings, interactive workshops and customized keynotes through the exclusive representation of Stern Speakers, a division of Stern Strategy Group®.

Videos

Media

Psychological Safety and the Free Exchange of Ideas

September 21, 2020

How to Foster Psychological Safety in Virtual Meetings

August 25, 2020

How to Create Psychological Safety at Work (Audio)

July 14, 2020

5 Tips for Communicating with Employees During a Crisis

July 9, 2020

The Role of Psychological Safety in Diversity and Inclusion

June 22, 2020

What Hospitals Overwhelmed by Covid-19 Can Learn From Startups

May 22, 2020

What Good Leadership Looks Like During This Pandemic

April 13, 2020

China’s Loss in Manufacturing Could be India’s Gain

April 13, 2020

All in This Together?

April 5, 2020

Five Strategies To Create A Culture That Enhances Psychological Safety And Team Performance

April 3, 2020

7 Ways to Promote Psychological Safety in your Organization

April 2, 2020

How the Coronavirus Is Already Rewriting the Future of Business

March 16, 2020

Don’t Hide Bad News in Times of Crisis

March 6, 2020

The Essential B-Side of Psychological Safety

January 26, 2020

When Employees Are Open With Each Other, But Not Management

January 16, 2020

A Noble Purpose Alone Won't Transform Your Company

December 10, 2019

How Fearless Organizations Succeed

November 14, 2019

hbr ideacast logo

How a New Leader Broke Through a Culture of Accuse, Blame, and Criticize (Audio)

September 17, 2019

HRMI 2019: Amy Edmondson Tops List of Influential Thinkers

September 17, 2019

Think You Know About Extreme Teaming?

August 15, 2019

To Strengthen Innovation, Make Sure Every Voice is Heard

August 5, 2019

How to Lead When You're Not The Boss

May 9, 2019

Interview Amy Edmondson: “Psychological Safety is not About Happiness at Work, but Dignity” (Audio)

May 6, 2019

Boeing and the Importance of Encouraging Employees to Speak Up

May 1, 2019

The Fearless Organization

May 1, 2019

Cross-Silo Leadership

May 2019

The Fearless Organization (Podcast)

April 15, 2019

Book Review: The Fearless Organization

February 22, 2019

hbr ideacast logo

Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace (Audio)

January 22, 2019

A Simple Way to Get Your Leadership Team Aligned on Strategy

January 2, 2019

If Your Company Is Going Through a Public Scandal, Should You Leave?

December 26, 2018

Your Strategy Should Be a Hypothesis You Constantly Adjust

November 9, 2017

Smart Cities at the Crossroads: New Tensions in City Transformation

January 27, 2017

A-Z Name

Edmondson, Amy

Biography

At no other point in recent history has psychological safety been more important – not only in the workplace, but in every area of society due to the pandemic. Such an environment is requiring leaders across sectors to reconsider the rules and tools they apply when managing teams. As they work on strategies to successfully move business forward, they must also address the elevated concerns employees now have around physical safety, job security, mental health, family life and isolation. All of these pressing issues make the important work of Harvard Business School (HBS) Professor Amy Edmondson even more timely and relevant.

Edmondson, a renowned expert on organizational learning and leadership, has been studying psychological safety and workplace behaviors for over 20 years. During that time, her work has helped major firms vastly improve performance by building an environment of psychological safety, transparency and collaborative teaming, which ultimately leads to more effective operations, invested employees and a healthier bottom line. She shares a handful of representative case studies in her 2018 bestselling book, “The Fearless Organization.”

As the Novartis Professor of Leadership and Management at HBS – a chair established to support the study of human interactions that lead to the creation of successful enterprises – Edmondson helps organizations identify barriers to success that are often hidden inside a workplace culture by ensuring people feel safe to speak up about problems they see and welcome to offer suggestions for doing things better, without fear of reprisal.

“Absent data on what’s not working, it’s all but impossible to know what to fix and how to fix it. No data, no progress,” wrote Edmondson in a March, 2020 Harvard Business Review article. “It takes courage to choose transparency — and wisdom to know that the choice is the right one for achieving the goals that matter to all.”

Over the years, Edmondson and her colleagues have conducted numerous studies showing the progress made at companies where problems were “placed firmly in bright sunlight” and highlighting the catastrophes that ensued when they were not. The results further confirmed that organizations that create paths for speaking up are more effective in dealing with challenges of every kind.

While any organization can be classified as a complex, error-prone system, Edmondson sees hospitals as particularly revealing case studies since activities move quickly and the stakes are high. One of her cases involved a hospital setting rife with finger pointing and blame that made it extremely difficult for anyone to speak up about mistakes and problems. Edmondson documents how a new COO worked to shift the culture by reframing the language around problems, changing words like “error” to “accident” and “investigation” to “study.” This moved failure analyses from an exercise in “who did it?” to a neutral “what happened?” which, in turn, gave employees a comfort level with reporting problems and superiors the information they needed to address issues and make changes.

“When the bad news starts pouring in — whether reporting crimes in a city, medical errors in a hospital, or new patient cases in a pandemic — this actually means you’ve jumped over your first hurdle to success,” says Edmondson. “With accurate information, people can turn their attention and skills to the challenges of developing novel solutions to the newly visible problems. Rather than living with false confidence that all is well, leaders and subject matter experts alike can instead get to work on what needs to be done.”

And for those companies who believe everything is fine, Edmondson warns that may not be good enough, and certainly won’t be five years from now.

“You can be part of a great organization that is still a complex, error-prone system,” says Edmondson. “Leaders must assume around every corner is a potential problem or a chance to do something better. The idea is to flip thinking from ‘we don’t have a problem’ to “how can we improve?”

# # #

Amy C. Edmondson is the Novartis Professor of Leadership and Management at the Harvard Business School. She studies teaming, psychological safety and organizational learning, and her articles have been published in numerous academic and management outlets, including Administrative Science Quarterly, Academy of Management Journal, Harvard Business Review and California Management Review. Her most recent book, “The Fearless Organization: Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace for Learning, Innovation and Growth” (Wiley, 2019), offers a practical guide for organizations serious about success in the modern economy and has been translated into 11 languages.

Edmondson has been recognized by the biannual Thinkers50 global ranking of management thinkers since 2011, and most recently was ranked #3 in 2019; she also received that organization’s Breakthrough Idea Award in 2019, and Talent Award in 2017. Her prior books – “Teaming: How Organizations Learn, Innovate and Compete in the Knowledge Economy” (Jossey-Bass, 2012), “Teaming to Innovate” (Jossey-Bass, 2013) and “Extreme Teaming” (Emerald, 2017) – explore teamwork in dynamic organizational environments. In “Building the Future: Big Teaming for Audacious Innovation” (Berrett-Koehler, 2016), she examines the challenges and opportunities of teaming across industries to build smart cities.

Edmondson received her PhD in organizational behavior, AM in psychology and AB in engineering and design from Harvard University. Before her academic career, she was Director of Research at Pecos River Learning Centers, where she worked on transformational change in large companies, and in the early 1980s, she worked as Chief Engineer for the legendary architect/inventor Buckminster Fuller.

Amy Edmondson is available to advise your organization via virtual and in-person consulting meetings, interactive workshops and customized keynotes through the exclusive representation of Stern Speakers, a division of Stern Strategy Group®.

Speech Topics

Amy Edmondson’s Roadmap to Trust and Psychological Safety in the Workplace

Want to Vastly Improve Your Organization? Make It Fearless

When looking to improve operations, organizational leaders have a powerful tool at their disposal, more valuable than focus groups and surveys combined: their employees. Leaders just need to nurture an environment where employees feel safe and empowered to share their thoughts, point out problems and, ultimately, be more innovative. For over 20 years, Harvard Business School Professor Amy Edmondson has been studying how workplace behaviors affect performance. Her research confirms that organizations that create paths for speaking up are more effective in dealing with challenges of every kind, and markedly improve performance across the board, including the bottom line. Edmondson calls this an environment of psychological safety, and when working with firms to identify barriers to success that are often hidden inside a workplace culture, she employs the well-researched methodologies outlined in her bestselling 2018 book, “The Fearless Organization.” Through keynotes, workshops and confidential advisory meetings, Edmondson teaches organizations how to continuously improve performance by fostering a culture of psychological safety in which problems can be identified and addressed in an atmosphere of learning, cooperation and teamwork.

Teaming Toward Innovation Breakthroughs

In today’s fast-moving, 24/7 business world, people are increasingly – especially in the COVID-19 era – working with off-site team members, many of whom are located across towns, countries and time zones, and often tackling projects on the fly. Some may even speak other languages, use unfamiliar terms and have completely different value systems. In the context of her work with major firms, Harvard Business School professor Amy Edmondson views teaming as a verb, an activity that happens when disparate stakeholders come together to create, innovate, solve problems and make decisions, usually around complex projects with many moving parts and high-pressure deadlines. During her 20-plus years studying workplace behaviors, Edmondson has developed and implemented successful teaming methodologies built around such factors as open-mindedness, humility, curiosity and willingness to listen, learn quickly and take risks. Through workshops, keynotes and advisory meetings, she teaches leaders and team members at organizations how to use these tools to “team” more effectively, efficiently, creatively and cooperatively in order to improve individual and organizational performance.

Leading Through Crisis: Leveraging Teaming to Solve Problems and Innovate

In 2016, Harvard Business School Professor Amy Edmondson co-authored a now prescient book called “Building the Future: Big Teaming for Audacious Innovation.” The themes she covers are even more relevant today as organizations often must use cross-sector collaboration to reframe operations in response to the COVID-19 crisis. In this talk, Edmondson discusses the value of successful teaming in a crisis and shares methods and exercises she’s developed during her more than 20 years of research into workplace behaviors and learning to help bridge the “culture clash” that frequently thwarts collaboration among diverse experts. Edmondson sees leadership as extremely critical during a crisis, pointing out that successful changes do not and will not happen spontaneously. During her keynotes, workshops and advisory meetings, she shares concrete tools leaders and their teams can use to innovate when faced with disruption so they can envision and create a more robust future.

Media

Array

Books & Research

Array

Workshops

Professor Amy Edmondson’s customized workshops offer leaders and their teams a unique opportunity to work closely with her to discuss and apply her methodologies related to building a culture of innovation, characterized by psychological safety, teamwork, candor, and an orientation toward problem-solving. Attendees bring their challenges and goals and work toward solutions in a collaborative setting. Edmondson employs modules that allow for question and answer periods and extended discussions mainly focused on how to improve organizational and individual performance.

Recommendations

Praise for “The Fearless Organization”

“The Fearless Organization is a modern masterpiece ― useful, timeless, and a delight to read. Amy Edmondson’s weave of studies, stories, and insights from her decades of research shows why psychological safety is the key ingredient for creating high-performing, humane, and resilient workplaces. This gem is packed with steps that leaders can take so people feel compelled to share mistakes and concerns ― confident they won’t be humiliated, ignored, or blamed for speaking up.”

Robert Sutton, Stanford Professor and author of national bestsellers including “Good Boss, Bad Boss” and (with Huggy Rao) “Scaling Up Excellence”

“Organizations today depend on talent, but there are many reasons that talent alone is not enough. The only way human capacities can truly flourish is in an atmosphere free of fear. Amy Edmondson has devoted 20 years to understanding psychological safety in organizations ― and in this timely, important book she shares what she’s learned. She identifies the ways fear can stifle creativity and teamwork ― and then offers smart, practical advice for overcoming these obstacles and building an organization free of fear. This is a book that every leader should read and heed.”

―Daniel H. Pink, author of “WHEN” and “DRIVE”

“Before Google discovered it, and before the idea became a mainstream meme, Amy Edmondson discovered something really important about high performing teams: the people in them felt that they could raise difficult, risky, or controversial ideas without the fear of being shut down or punished. She called it ‘psychological safety,’ and pioneered approaches to making it a reality in hundreds of teams. It is an idea whose time has triumphantly arrived. Edmondson’s new book is your guide to it.”

Rita McGrath, Professor, Columbia University, bestselling author, “The End of Competitive Advantage: How to Keep Your Strategy Moving as Fast as Your Business”

“The overwhelming message of Amy’s book is this: leadership calls us to create workplaces where people feel safe to share ideas and mistakes are embraced as opportunities to learn. Build an organization free of fear and watch remarkable things happen. Not only is it the right thing to do, it’s the ultimate competitive advantage!”

Bob Chapman, CEO of Barry-Wehmiller and author of “Everybody Matters: The Extraordinary Power of Caring for Your People Like Family”

“The importance of psychological safety in organizational life has been known for a long time, but only now do we have a roadmap of how to get there through this book’s thorough analysis of how to build organizations that actually create psychological safety for all employees at all levels, and, thereby, ensure higher quality performance, more safety, and, most importantly, more learning. Psychological safety will not only be desirable but absolutely necessary as organizations become more complex and more dependent on the commitment of all their members. This book makes the case through a thorough review of relevant research and illustrates all of its main points through powerful stories from a broad variety of organizations.”

Edgar H. Schein, Professor Emeritus, MIT Sloan School of Management and author with Peter Schein of “Humble Leadership: The Power of Relationships, Openness and Trust”

Social Media

Similar Speakers

Array