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How to Foster a Culture of Innovation: Interview with Timothy Clark

By Anthony Taylor - April 16, 2020

In this episode of the Strategy & Leadership Podcast, we were joined by Timothy Clark, author of The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety, and founder/CEO of Leader Factor - a boutique consulting firm focused on creating innovative cultures and organizational change. 

With a masters degree in Economics in Government and a PhD in Social Sciences with a focus on culture, Timothy brings a keen interest in how culture influences and is influenced by leadership, as well as the relationship between culture and strategy. 


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On this episode, Timothy shares his experience working with executive teams and tips on various topics including:

  • Leadership

A leader cannot be neutral. They either lead the way or get in the way, as Timothy mentions. In order to lead the way, the leaders has two primary functions within an organization- to coach skills and model behaviour, therefore becoming the architect of culture. 

  • Culture of innovation

The leading indicator of healthy workplace culture is the level of psychological safety employees feel when. Someone who feels psychologically safe in the workplace is able to participate in the value creation process of the organization without a fear of being punished, embarrassed or ignored. This opens the door for employees to be intellectually brave.

  • Intellectual Bravery

Someone who feels psychologically safe at work will demonstrate more intellectual bravery. This person is willing to disagree or dissent and challenge the status quo. This intellectual bravery is what ultimately leads to innovation, however, this won't happen until employees are drained of fear. If it's politically and emotionally costly for people to speak their mind, it's reasonable to expect they will not.

  • What to do?

As a leader, don't rely on the fear button, which often comes from frustration and insecurity. Instead, assign different people to dissent and challenge what you're proposing or already have in place. This removes the personal risk to the individual, and replaces is with permission from the top. Of course it never hurts to show some of your own vulnerability, admitting what you don't know in order to show others it's safe. 

For more about Timothy's book: The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety

Read Timothy's Harvard Business Review article from March 24th here: 8 Ways to Manage Your Team While Social Distancing.

For more information about Timothy's work and his company, LeaderFactor, visit: https://www.leaderfactor.com/.


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