What is safety?
It is setting the environment in order to try new things, without the fear of the consequences of failure. When we have confidence, we can try new things. Some of them succeed. Some fail, and we learn from them. Safety allows us to try.
With confidence, we can go out of our comfort zone, and be able to expand it. We are able to push the boundaries. If it works, we’ll be more comfortable in that new space. If we fail, that’s ok, we know that we can try something else.
Here’s a scientifically accurate diagram, on the right.
Without safety, there is no confidence to experiment.We fear the consequences of failure. As a risk-averse species, we’d rather stay in our comfort, our self-created safe zone.
Our comfort zone may not shrink, but it does stay the same. We know our zone, but we don’t learn anything outside it. Compared to others who increasingly push the boundaries, we stay behind.
Give us an example!
When I was at Agile Testing Days last week, I went out of my comfort zone. This conference is so special, and has built a community so strong over the years, that I felt safe to try new things.
On Wednesday night, we had a Cabaret night, where yours truly performed a stand-up skit (with memes, of course) for the very first time in his life. A scary fit (and not just for the audience).
I couldn’t do it, if I didn’t know I could fail gracefully. If I didn’t think people will at least appreciate the effort. If I thought I couldn’t go back to the conference next year and show my face again.
Lame jokes and all, people loved it. Now I know I can do a couple of minutes and stay alive. I’ve expanded my comfort zone, and can move on from here.
When we can try new things in a safe environment new things can happen, things we couldn’t have imagined – personal, team, organizational miracles.
That’s the power of safety.