Psychological Safety #34: Cognitive Load

Training, Workshops, Exercises and Tools

Psychological Safety #34: Cognitive Load

psychological safety in crisis or code

This week is packed and includes user research, cognitive load & diversity, facilitation and more!

Enjoy, and have a wonderful day.

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Psychological Safety In the Workplace:
This is an excellent and really useful piece from Rachael and Urska at the wonderful Paper, in Sheffield, UK, about curating psychological safety through the stages of your user research. I always love well written pieces that include actionable Do’s and Don’t’s, and Rachael and Urska have been explicit about the need for aftercare for participants as well as self-reflection. There’s even a recording of the talk that goes along with the article.

“When we do a lot of our work on workplace health and safety, I think there’s such an importance that should be placed on psychological safety […] which encompasses bullying and harassment. It’s nice to see the world of work becoming more aware of this and thinking about safety broadly.” This is a good article in Canadian Occupational Safety about Psychological safety being an integral part of Occupational Health and Safety.

Related to the above – “Would More Women in Construction Mean Safer Jobsites?” – this article makes the point about cognitive diversity and its influence on physical safety. The point they nearly make, but don’t quite get there, seems to be that by making construction a more inclusive industry, and fostering greater diversity, psychological safety should be improved, which should in turn lead to improved diversity of thought and physical safety on site.

Vivek Moitra replied to me on Twitter with this gema  few things to say during crisis or a code, adapted from Dr Amy Edmondson’s book “Teaming”

Psychological Safety Theory, Research and Opinion:
 This is fantastic: Six Strategies You May Not Be Using To Reduce Cognitive Load. Again, here’s a well written and actionable piece, in this case focussing on cognitive load. I’ve written about cognitive load and psychological safety before, and was introduced to this model by the book Team Topologies

I have to say, I’m not completely convinced by these models of behaviour intervention, such as the Vanderbilt model espoused in this article on, “How a cup of coffee reduces unprofessional behaviour“. I have a niggling feeling that this approach puts the cart before the horse, and attempts to build psychological safety by enforcing practices that require psychological safety to be effective. A key practice to build psychological safety is to be firm with behaviours that breach the social contract or behavioural norms of the team, but we cannot expect team members to call out or intervene without a baseline of psychological safety in place already. 

Carrying on the healthcare theme, here’s a great open access paper on Harassment in Medicine: Cultural barriers to psychological safety. The authors make a good point about steep power gradients being particularly damaging to psychological safety: in organisations with these hierarchies, “people compete with one another for opportunities to gain more influence within the organization”.

Here are two Masters thesis papers from BI Norwegian Business School, both highlighting psychological safety and leadershipHow leader’s cultural intelligence amplifies perceived group inclusion, team creativity, and team performance in multicultural teams, and A study of Adaptive Performance: Facilitating for adaptive behavior through Transformational Leadership and Psychological Safety during Covid-19. Both are worth a read, or at least the abstract 🙂 

This is only tangentially related to psychological safety, but meets me at my interest intersections of public health, technology, and fear (or lack of): “Power shapes human health, and infectious diseases shape power” – a fantastic New Humanist article with Dr Kyle Harper about his new book, “Plagues Upon the Earth: Disease and the Course of Human History”. Dr Harper highlights how we should have been more prepared for Covid-19, in part because historians were warning us constantly about the threat – a point I also wrote about in a blog article: Cultural lessons learned from Spanish Flu and how these influenced response to the Covid-19 pandemic. I like Gary Wong’s point that Covid-19 wasn’t a black swan event, it was a black elephant.

I’m interested in your perspectives too, so please get in touch!

Things to do and try:

Last week (or maybe the week before), we mentioned SLAM teams. Worth diving into a little deeper – SLAM stands for Small, Lean, Autonomous, and MultidisciplinaryHere’s a great piece that highlights the power of SLAM teams in fostering agility, alignment, collaboration, and speed.

This is an excellent article by Anna Birney on facilitation, with some real takeaways about the process, capabilities, roles and dynamics that facilitators influence, and the importance of powerful facilitation in catalysing systemic change. Follow Anna on Twitter for more insights.

This week’s poem:

Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there — on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

— Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot, 1994

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