Why Creative People Need to Work in a Psychologically Safe Place

Posted by iAM Learning on Feb 10, 2023 6:22:06 PM

We're all about psychological safety right now, so our Creative Director, Tom Gagen, wanted to share his thoughts on this hot topic, along with his own experiences and why creative people, like him, need to work in a psychologically safe place...

Before I kick off, let me explain what psychological safety means. It’s the feeling and belief that you can share your thoughts, opinions, and ideas freely without fear of being degraded or shamed. You can challenge leadership and not blindly follow people when you disagree with them. And this is what psychological safety means to me in my workplace. Let me explain.

There's no such thing as a stupid question, right? Well, yes and no. Let’s go with the no option for a moment. Silly questions can form the fundamental basis for creative sessions. And I can tell you; they often spit out great results.

I’m often the person that comes up with the most basic questions. Those ones that some people might think are obvious, and so not ask in case they got embarrassed. In the past, I’d have shied away from that. Y’know, just in case I was accosted by the unstable big creative boss. Yes, we’ve all had them. I’ve had a couple actually. They’d grind you down and completely devalue your ideas. They’d embarrass you in front of your colleagues. I guess it made them feel better about themselves. They had frustrations that they needed to deal with, but that’s no excuse.  

Anyway, I digress. My silly question to the team was about the story of Troy and the Trojan Horse and how the Greeks wanted to enter the city of Troy using a crazy wooden gift horse. I was trying to angle towards the meeting the Greeks must have had at the time. ‘How can we get into Troy?’ I mean, who was daft enough to suggest that using a wooden horse filled with Greeks would work? It’s mad and outlandish. But the point is, that person must have felt safe amongst his colleagues to even suggest it.

It leads me on to my next point. I didn’t know much about Greek Mythology. But I knew loosely about the concept of the story of Troy. The younger Tom would never have suggested it as an idea to carry the collection. His old boss would have accosted and embarrassed him. Hard to recover from, I can tell you. It’s not like that here. I felt safe enough to share my ideas and question this stuff. OK, I still felt a little embarrassed that I wasn’t ‘the borough’ of Greek Mythology. But I went for it. I knew the theme would engage with our learners and be commercially viable but also because many of the myths and legends lend themselves well to situations that we can all relate to. For example, in a course about learning from mistakes, our hero iAM Perseus avoids getting turned into stone by Medusa by seeing what went wrong in previous attempts.

And as a result, my team and I have created a beautiful ancient Greek theme, that covers key topics such as how to ask for help, challenging leadership constructively, the danger of echo chambers and creating a feedback culture plus several other useful topics.

I really believe this would be a useful way of carrying the learning, and we all LOVE learning through stories! 

Anyway, this is why creative people need to work in a psychologically safe place. So that we can shout up with ideas, and challenge leadership without being punished or humiliated.

Thomas Gagen

Want to learn more about psychological safety?

If you're looking to make your workplace a happier and more productive place to be, take a look at our Psychological Safety learning collection, with everything you need to get started!

Topics: Learning & Development