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Are We Safe Enough to Take a Risk? Psychological Safety and Innovation in Higher Education Work Teams

Amy H Ewen, Johnson & Wales University

Abstract

To survive in a postindustrial society, higher education institutions must be able to adapt. The nature of the environment has changed, along with the nature of the institution, so institutions must be adaptive and innovative. Increasingly, institutions must take advantage of the innovative potential of their teams. Psychological safety (PS) is a necessary factor for teams to be effective and innovative, as innovation requires taking risks, and PS has been shown to mitigate risk. This quantitative correlational study investigated the relationship between team PS and team innovation in higher education employees. The study addressed the following research questions: How do higher education employees rate their team’s climate of PS and their team’s climate for innovation? To what extent and in what manner is higher education employees’ ratings of their team’s climate for innovation explained by their team’s climate of PS? Is there a significant difference in the ratings of team innovation and team PS by higher education employees who report that their team is required to be creative and those who do not? Data were collected from higher education employees (N = 165) through a questionnaire. Results revealed that 41.8% of respondents somewhat or strongly agree that their team has a climate of PS, 43.7% of respondents somewhat or strongly agree that their team has a climate for innovation, while 60.1% of respondents somewhat or strongly agree that their team is required to be creative. A significant relationship was found between PS and innovation, where PS explains 63% of the variation in innovation (r = .79, r2 = 0.63, p = .000, ES = large); regression modeling revealed that 69.3% of variance of innovation may be explained by four items on the PS scale (r = .832, r2= .693, t = 2.84, p = .005). The results will contribute to the body of research addressing key elements of successful organizations and offer insight into team innovation and psychological safety in higher education institutions. Recommendations are provided at the organizational, group, and individual levels to recognize the role of PS in facilitating team innovation, and organizational adaptation.

Subject Area

Higher Education Administration|Organizational behavior|Educational leadership

Recommended Citation

Ewen, Amy H, "Are We Safe Enough to Take a Risk? Psychological Safety and Innovation in Higher Education Work Teams" (2021). Dissertation & Theses Collection. AAI28494172.
https://scholarsarchive.jwu.edu/dissertations/AAI28494172

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