Play, creativity and Psychological Safety

Psychological Safety in work groups is achieved when members are not afraid of potential embarrassment, rejection or punishment from other group members. In groups with low psychological safety members tend to withdraw or distance themselves from the group and will agree with or yield to other group members’ wishes. Also work groups with low psychological safety are not any fun to work in, the members get disengaged and apathetic about whatever they are working on. The primary focus becomes to protect oneself from critique. Obviously this is not a great environment for creativity. With higher psychological safety a work group can be much, much more creative since group members are actively engaged and are willing to speak up and test assumptions and ideas. In such a work group the members also feel positively about the group itself and the task at hand.
Play at work, or in the work group might increase psychological safety and thus also as a side-effect boost creativity. Play can be defined as “an absorbing intrinsically motivated activity that is apparently purposeless and provides enjoyment and a suspension of self-consciousness.” If a work group can play together this might not only lead to a more positive mood it might even make members feel safer and more willing to share new exciting ideas without fear of being “punished”.

Bottom line: a workgroup that plays together has higher levels of psychological safety and is more creative!

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