Intellectual honesty + psychological safety = winning innovation combo

by | May 6, 2023 | All Blogs

Had an interesting read on the connection between intellectual honesty and innovation. As someone who values both, here are my thoughts on striking the right balance. Intellectual honesty is key for driving innovation, but mishandling it can undermine psychological safety. The challenge lies in facilitating candid debates while defusing personal conflict. In other words – challenge people and their ideas, and let them challenge yours, but don’t be an a** about it!

A culture that values both psychological safety and intellectual honesty offers ripe ground for innovation. Let’s get a bit more practical here – these are a few pointers to get started:

1. Foster emotional intelligence: leaders need to be mindful of people’s feelings and how feedback is delivered if they want people to have an honest go at challenging the status quo and failing here and there. Half the time, it’s not about what you say but how you say it.

2. Hire and develop proactive employees: give people the ownership they need to embrace change, make quick decisions and confidently course-correct when things go sideways.

3. Legitimise honesty: focus on productive conflict – challenging the task, challenging the objective, challenging the roadmap. Create an environment where people can disagree while elevating each other.

4. Unify goals: When your mission is clear and your team is invested in it, there’s always a north star to refer to, and that makes conflict and constructive feedback a much easier pill to swallow. Also remember, clarity is not set and forgot. If you feel like a broken record sometimes, pat yourself on the back! You are rewiring people’s brains.