How balancing comfort and discomfort drives growth

Netflix wasn’t always the streaming giant it is today. It began as a humble DVD rental service by mail. Similarly, Lego built its reputation on classic plastic bricks. Netflix pivoted to internet streaming, revolutionising entertainment consumption. Lego expanded into movie sets, video games and theme parks, attracting new generations. Both companies, by venturing outside their comfort zones, achieved remarkable success.

The power of discomfort: Redefining psychological safety

A key to Netflix’s and Lego’s success lies in a concept often misunderstood, ‘psychological safety’. The term ‘psychological safety’ is in some ways a misnomer, with the emphasis on ‘safety’ (Dobra-Kiel, 2023). It is therefore unsurprising that 44% of HR Directors define psychological safety as an environment where employees feel secure and protected (Behave, 2023).

In contrast, psychological safety, as defined by Behave, involves striking a balance between comfort and discomfort to enable employees to take well-calibrated risks (Dobra-Kiel, 2023). This definition is complemented by the Behave framework – Reveal-EX™ – which offers a unique perspective on psychological safety. It breaks it down into key enablers, each measured through a combination of comfort and discomfort factors.

The power of discomfort: psychological safety drives growth

We all crave the familiarity and security of our comfort zones.  However, clinging to them can lead to stagnation. Stepping outside your comfort zone is a powerful growth – through productivity and innovation – booster for businesses and teams. Fostering a culture that embraces humility, examination, and vulnerability – the very discomfort factors identified by Reveal-EX™ – is key to unlocking this potential.

  • Humility: Recognising your limits. Great teams are built on the foundation of humility. When team members acknowledge their limitations in knowledge, abilities and expertise, it opens the door to learning and growth. This isn’t about self-depreciation; it’s about acknowledging that no one knows everything. By embracing humility, we create space for diverse perspectives and expertise to flourish.
  • Examination: Seeing the bigger picture. Examining situations through a broad lens fosters innovation and problem-solving. When we consider different viewpoints, we uncover hidden aspects and potential solutions. Humility fuels this process. By acknowledging that our perspective isn’t the only one, we’re more open to analysing situations from different angles. This broader perspective leads to more creative solutions, ultimately boosting productivity.
  • Vulnerability: Strength in openness. Sharing our thoughts and feelings, even when it feels risky, can be incredibly powerful. Vulnerability allows us to connect with colleagues on a deeper level, fostering trust and collaboration. It also encourages honest feedback, a crucial ingredient for growth. When team members feel safe expressing their concerns and limitations, they’re more likely to take calculated risks, experiment and ultimately be more productive.

Psychological safety isn’t about creating a feel-good work environment. It’s a strategic investment that ultimately drives productivity and innovation. By fostering a culture where employees take well-calibrated risks, companies unlock the true potential of their workforce. In today’s competitive landscape, psychological safety is a necessity as true psychological safety drives growth.

Written by Dr Alexandra Dobra-Kiel, our Innovation & Strategy Director. Get in touch to learn more about Reveal-EX™ and how we can help you foster a work environment that encourages employees to take well-calibrated risks to unlock company growth.

Download the report here

Dr. Alexandra Dobra-Kiel - Innovation & Strategy Director

Author:Dr. Alexandra Dobra-Kiel - Innovation & Strategy Director