The Fearless Organization Book Summary - The Fearless Organization Book explained in key points
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The Fearless Organization summary

Amy C. Edmondson

Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace for Learning, Innovation, and Growth

4.5 (395 ratings)
20 mins

Brief summary

The Fearless Organization by Amy C. Edmondson is a management book that explores how to build a culture of psychological safety in the workplace, promoting honest communication, learning, and innovation, resulting in a more successful and resilient organization.

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    The Fearless Organization
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    Worrying about how we’re perceived prevents us from doing our best work.

    Imagine you’re sitting in a strategy meeting. Your boss has shared some of the challenges that need to be addressed, and now she’s asking the team to come up with suggestions. You’ve got an idea, but you’re worried that others will think it’s no good. So, rather than risk it, you keep your thoughts to yourself.

    Whether it happens in a meeting, a classroom, or even around a dinner table, most of us have experience of having something to say but holding back in case it made other people think less of us. We learn to do this early; as children, we start caring what our peers think and avoid saying or doing anything that could make us look silly, weak, or not as cool as everyone else. 

    By the time we’re adults, the habit of silencing and restricting ourselves is almost unconscious, and it prevents us from speaking up when we have ideas, questions, or concerns at work. 

    In a 2003 study into people speaking up in the workplace, academics Frances J. Milliken, Elizabeth W. Morrison, and Patricia F. Hewlin found that 85 percent of study participants felt unable to approach their bosses with concerns about work. The most common reason for this? The participants didn’t want their bosses to see them in a negative light. 

    Even seemingly confident people experience this. Take business innovator Nilofer Merchant; she was labeled a visionary by CNBC, and in 2013, she was awarded the Future Thinker Award by Thinkers50. But in a 2011 Harvard Business Review article, Nilofer shared that while working at Apple, she would keep quiet about problems she noticed because she didn’t want to be wrong. She’s quoted as saying, “I would rather keep my job by staying within the lines than say something and risk looking stupid.” 

    When fear gets in the way of people speaking up at work, it’s not only the individuals keeping silent who miss out. Companies also lose opportunities to generate new ideas, and this is especially dangerous in a world where businesses need to innovate if they want to succeed. 

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    What is The Fearless Organization about?

    The Fearless Organization (2018) delves into psychological safety and how the workplace can become an environment in which everyone feels confident enough to pitch in and do their best. These blinks explain why people hold back on sharing their ideas at work, how this harms businesses, and how leaders can encourage a culture of openness, questioning, and experimentation that leads to learning and innovation. 

    The Fearless Organization Review

    The Fearless Organization (2019) by Amy C. Edmondson is a highly recommended book for anyone interested in creating a culture of psychological safety in the workplace. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • It provides compelling evidence and real-life case studies that demonstrate how psychological safety can lead to higher performance, innovation, and employee engagement.
    • With its practical advice and actionable strategies, the book offers readers a roadmap for fostering a culture of psychological safety in their organizations.
    • Through clear explanations and thought-provoking examples, the book effectively shows how leaders can cultivate an environment where people feel safe to take risks, speak up, and collaborate.

    Best quote from The Fearless Organization

    Those who are not the boss are seen as valued contributors, as people with crucial knowledge and insight.

    —Amy C. Edmondson
    example alt text

    Who should read The Fearless Organization?

    • Forward-thinking leaders who want to encourage innovation and learning
    • Human resources managers looking to get the most out of their talent
    • Team players interested in creating a supportive workplace

    About the Author

    Amy C. Edmondson is a professor of leadership and management at the Harvard Business School. She’s been repeatedly ranked as one of the world’s most influential management thinkers by Thinkers50. She’s spent 20 years researching psychological safety, organizational learning, and leadership, and shared her expertise in publications such as the Harvard Business Review and the California Management Review. Edmondson is the author of Teaming and Teaming to Innovate, as well as the co-author of Building the Future and Extreme Teaming


    © Amy C. Edmondson: The Fearless Organization copyright 2018, John Wiley & Sons Inc. Used by permission of John Wiley & Sons Inc. and shall not be made available to any unauthorized third parties.

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    The Fearless Organization FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Fearless Organization?

    The main message of The Fearless Organization is the importance of psychological safety in creating successful teams.

    How long does it take to read The Fearless Organization?

    The reading time for The Fearless Organization varies, but it typically takes a few hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is The Fearless Organization a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The Fearless Organization is worth reading as it highlights the benefits of fostering a culture of psychological safety within organizations.

    Who is the author of The Fearless Organization?

    The author of The Fearless Organization is Amy C. Edmondson.

    What to read after The Fearless Organization?

    If you're wondering what to read next after The Fearless Organization, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety by Timothy R. Clark
    • Teams That Work by Scott Tannenbaum and Eduardo Salas
    • The Culture Code by Daniel Coyle
    • Building an Inclusive Organization by Stephen Frost and Raafi-Karim Alidina
    • Surrounded by Idiots by Thomas Erikson
    • Dare to Lead by Brené Brown
    • The Advantage by Patrick M. Lencioni
    • The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick M. Lencioni
    • Disruptive Branding by Jacob Benbunan
    • The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson