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TECoSA Research Forum – Executive summary for April

Martin Karlsson facilitated the April session of the TECoSA Research Forum. He began by introducing psychological safety [1] and why it is important in teams, organizations and within cross-sectoral collaborations [2] (aka extreme teaming). The definition of psychological safety is an environment where everyone can take interpersonal risk without negative consequences. Martin promotes the need to train with psychological safety in a safe environment in order to achieve it in our regular business life. One way is to learn how to be vulnerable in a personal but not private setting before going into professional discussions. To practice this, participants were divided into breakout rooms and trained in sharing vulnerability by answering the following questions [3]:

When was the last time you really laughed?
When was the last time you made someone else laugh?
What or who makes you laugh most in life?
Who appreciates your humour?

By sharing these questions, the peers in the breakout rooms were able to build a relationship from the start and the level of vulnerability increases with each question. This should lead to more honest discussions during the Forum.

With psychological safety in teams, we can start to leverage on diversity. For TECoSA, we have faculty and students from all over the world and thirteen partner companies with different corporate cultures.  To build collective intelligence [4], we need to develop other necessary skills such as social sensitivity, open mindset, perspective taking, sharing criticism and commitment to decisions. Perspective taking is also known to be essential to build inclusive teams [5]. Martin introduced this topic as looking on the world (or part of the world) standing in someone else shoes, or to go out of your own inner sphere and try imaging the world from the perspective of someone else [6]. A recent study at SEB [7] has led to a newly published Nanotool [8] at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. The participants explored this nanotool in breakout sessions, where they reflected on recent situations where they had needed to listen to really understand someone else perspective. They also used mental contrasting to understand when it can be beneficial to use perspective taking in situations in the near future. Martin recommends repeating this exercise weekly or bi-weekly for 12 to 16 weeks in order to really establish a new behaviour.

Finally, Martin introduced the Innovator’s DNA [9] and gave a short summery of the behaviours that many unicorn start-up leaders show – namely: questioning, networking, observing, experimenting and associating. The Innovator’s DNA process helps participants to train these behaviours when working with a challenge (or research question). In breakout rooms, all participants had the opportunity to present a current challenge or research question, and then, with input from their peers, to come up with new questions that can give new insight or change the perspective.

After the Forum, the participants will be able to continue working with the challenge and develop a strategy for networking, observing and experimenting. The breakout rooms will continue to meet over the next months to help keep each other on the path.

The Research Forum concluded with peer-to-peer feedback and a plenum check-out “What is my key-takeaway from today?”


[1] Edmondson A.C. (2019), The Fearless Organization Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace for Learning, Innovation, and Growth, Wiley, Hoboken, NJ, ISBN-13: 978-1119477242

[2] Edmondson A.C.  Harvey J-F. (2017), Extreme teaming, Emerald Publishing Limited, ISBN 9781781489897

[3] Aaker J. Bagdonas N (2020), Humor seriously, Crown Publishing Group, ISBN 9780593135280

[4] Engel (2014). Reading the Mind in the Eyes or Reading between the Lines? Theory of Mind Predicts Collective Intelligence Equally Well Online and Face-To-Face. PLoS ONE 9(12): e115212. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0115212

[5] Lindsey A. et. al. (2017). Two Types of Diversity Training That Really Work. Harvard Business Review

[6] Scharmer C.O.(2009). Theory U, Leading from the future as it emerges, Berrett-Koehler Publishers; 1st Edition