Amy Edmondson biography and books

Amy Edmondson - Toolshero

Amy Edmondson is the Novartis Professor of Leadership and Management at Harvard Business School. She is an American researcher and author, known worldwide for her renowned work in the field of psychological safety. Amy C. Edmondson has been a guest on several podcasts, such as Simon Sinek’s podcast ‘A Bit of Optimism’, Joshua Steinfeldt’s ‘The Courageous Life’ and Harvard Business Review’s ‘The HBR IdeaCast’. As a leadership expert, Amy has also given two TED Talks, with more than 4 million views combined.

Her book ‘The Fearless Organization, Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace for Learning, Innovation, and Growth‘ has been translated into 15 languages and her latest book ‘Right Kind of Wrong‘ is expected to be translated into 24 languages.

Amy Edmondson Biography

Amy received her Bachelor’s degree in Engineering and Design, her Master’s degree in Psychology, and her PhD in Organizational Behavior, all from Harvard University. Prior to her academic career, she was director of research at Pecos River Learning Centers, where she focused on transformational change in large companies. She also worked as chief engineer for architect Buckminster Fuller in the early 1980s.

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She began teaching at Harvard in 1996 and is now the Novartis Professor of Leadership and Management at Harvard Business School. She specializes in teaming, organizational learning and psychological safety. She has published numerous articles on this subject in, among others, the Harvard Business Review, California Management Review and Administration Science Quarterly.

Psychological Safety

Psychological safety is the driving force that allows employees to bring their full personality to work, sharing their ideas and theories, without fear of humiliation or fear of consequences.

According to Edmondson, psychological safety is crucial for the functioning of high-performance teams, especially in today’s competitive market. The term refers to the idea that a team or organization provides an environment where employees feel free to express themselves and take risks.

Creating an ideal environment for growth and productivity requires a balance between psychological safety and responsibility. How this balance can shift, becomes clear through four zones of psychological safety: learning, comfort, apathy and fear.

  • Learning zone: in a learning zone, team members experience high responsibility and high psychological safety. This is the ideal learning environment for innovation and growth, because even though its members are responsible for their work, their team provides continuous support.
  • Comfort zone: team members in the comfort zone have high psychological safety and low responsibility. Although this zone is more relaxed, there is no urge for creativity and growth.
  • Apathy zone: with low psychological safety and low accountability, team members fall into the apathy zone. There are no consequences for mistakes, teams lack adequate communication and support, and individuals struggle to focus on their work.
  • Fear zone: team members experience low psychological safety and high responsibility in the fear zone. Communication is poor and when mistakes are made, people are often too afraid to take responsibility because of the consequences. Opportunities to learn and innovate are scarce.

According to Amy Edmondson, psychological safety does not mean creating an environment where there is no conflict or disagreement. Rather, it’s about employees feeling free to discuss and challenge each other’s ideas in a way that is respectful.


Amy has received several awards for her groundbreaking work. Her work has contributed to a large amount of academic research in the fields of management, healthcare and education.

Since 2011, she has been on the Thinkers50 list of top management thinkers, where she has reached a number 1 position twice. She also won the Talent Award in 2017 and the Thinkers50 Breakthrough Idea Award in 2019. That same year (2019), she was voted as number 1 most influential thinker in the field of Human Resources by HR Magazine.

Her book ‘The Fearless Organization: Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace for Learning, Innovation and Growth’ was named one of the best international non-fiction books of 2019 by the Sharjah International Book Fair and ranked number 14 on the Porchlight Business bestseller list that same year.

Private Life

Not much is known about Amy Edmondson’s private life, other than that she married George Q. Daley in 2015. Daley is the Dean of the Faculty of Medicine of Harvard Medical School.

Famous quotes

  1. “If you’re not failing, you’re not journeying into new territory.”
  2. “Play is integral to the spirit of intelligent failure. It doesn’t always have to sting.”
  3. “Leadership at its core is about harnessing others’ efforts to achieve something no one can achieve alone.”
  4. “Proficient teaming often requires integrating perspectives from a range of disciplines, communicating despite the different mental models that accompany different areas of expertise, and being able to manage the inevitable conflicts that arise when people work together.”
  5. “Psychological safety reduces the interpersonal barriers to failing well, so people can take on new challenges with less fear, such that we can try to succeed and walk away wiser when we don’t. That, I believe, is the right kind of wrong.”
  6. “Failing well, perhaps even living well, requires us to become vigorously humble and curious—a state that does not come naturally to adults. Psychologists and neuroscientists have discovered that, far too often for our health and success, a kind of automatic sense that we’re right blinds us—the confirmation bias again. We literally fail to see disconfirming evidence. Other times, we’re privately aware that we’ve failed but reluctant to admit it.”
  7. “Psychological safety both enables and is enabled by blameless reporting. The policy sends the message “We understand that things will go wrong, and we want to hear from you quickly so we can solve problems and prevent harm.”
  8. “Psychological safety is not about being nice or lowering performance standards, it’s about giving candid feedback, openly admitting mistakes, and learning from them.”
  9. “Communication frequency among coworkers also led to psychological safety. In other words, the more we talk to each other, the more comfortable we become doing so.”
  10. “Once you start seeing systems—seeing connections between parts—you can begin to see ways to alter the most important systems in your life or organization to reduce unwanted failures and to promote greater innovation, efficiency, safety, or other valued outcomes.”

Books and publications by Amy Edmondson et al.

  • 2023. Workplace Conditions. Cambridge Elements, Improving Quality and Safety in Healthcare. Cambridge University Press.
  • 2023. Right Kind of Wrong. Atria Books (an imprint of Simon & Schuster).
  • 2023. The Dynamics of Team Learning: Harmony and Rhythm in Teamwork Arrangements for Innovation. Administrative Science Quarterly 68-3: 601–647.
  • 2023. Psychological Safety Comes of Age: Observed Themes in an Established Literature. Annual Review of Organizational Psychology and Organizational Behavior 10: 55–78.
  • 2023. Rethink Your Employee Value Proposition: Offer Your People More Than Just Flexibility. Harvard Business Review 101, 1: 45–49.
  • 2022. Becoming a Learning Organization While Enhancing Performance: The Case of LEGO. International Journal of Operations & Production Management 42, 13: 438–481.
  • 2022. Entry Points: Gaining Momentum in Early-Stage Cross-Boundary Collaborations. Journal of Applied Behavioral Science 58, 4: 595–645.
  • 2022. A Strategic View of Team Learning in Organizations. Academy of Management Annals 16, 2: 476–507.
  • 2021. Agility Hacks. Harvard Business Review 99, 6.
  • 2021. No Team is an Island: How Leaders Shape Networked Ecosystems for Team Success. California Management Review 64, 1: 5–28.
  • 2021. Joint Problem-solving Orientation in Fluid Cross-boundary Teams. Academy of Management Discoveries 7, 3: 381–405.
  • 2021. Reflections: Voice and Silence in Workplace Conversations. Journal of Change Management 21, 3: 269–286.
  • 2021. Missing the Near Miss: Recognizing Valuable Learning Opportunities in Radiation Oncology. Practical Radiation Oncology 11, 3: e256–e262.
  • 2021. Building Cities’ Collaborative Muscle. Stanford Social Innovation Review (website).
  • 2021. Resilience vs. Vulnerability: Psychological Safety and Reporting of Near Misses with Varying Proximity to Harm in Radiation Oncology. Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety 47, 1: 15-22.
  • 2020. Today’s Leaders Need Vulnerability, Not Bravado. Harvard Business Review Digital Articles.
  • 2020. Into the Fray: Adaptive Approaches to Studying Novel Teamwork Forms. Special Issue on The Challenges of Working with “Real” Teams. Organizational Psychology Review 10- 2: 62–86.
  • 2020. The Impact of Covid-19 on Psychological Safety in the Workplace (Interview). HSTalks Business and Management Collection.
  • 2020. A Noble Purpose Alone Won’t Transform Your Company: Leadership Behaviors That Nurture Interpersonal Collaboration Are the True Drivers of Change. MIT Sloan Management Review 61, 2.
  • 2019. Cross-Silo Leadership. Harvard Business Review 97, 3: 130–139.
  • 2019. Fluid Teams and Knowledge Retrieval: Scaling Service Operations. Manufacturing & Service Operations Management 21, 2: 346–360.
  • 2019. Burnout in Surgery Viewed Through the Lens of Psychological Safety. Annals of Surgery 269, 2: 234–235.
  • 2019. From Orientation to Behavior: The Interplay Between Learning Orientation, Open-mindedness, and Psychological Safety in Team Learning. Human Relations 72, 11: 1726–1751.
  • 2019. Health as a Way of Doing Business. JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association 321, 1: 33–34.
  • 2018. Cross-boundary Teaming for Innovation: Integrating Research on Teams and Knowledge in Organizations. Special Issue on Creating High Performance Teamwork in Organizations. Human Resource Management Review 28, 4: 347–360.
  • 2018. Extreme Teaming in an Uncertain World. Life Science Leader.
  • 2018. The Fearless Organization: Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace for Learning, Innovation, and Growth. John Wiley & Sons.
  • 2017. Extreme Teaming: Lessons in Complex, Cross-Sector Leadership. Emerald Publishing Limited.
  • 2016. Building the Future: Big Teaming for Audacious Innovation. Berret Kohlers Publishers, Inc.
  • 2013. Teaming to Innovate. John Wiley & Sons.
  • 2012. Teaming: How Organizations Learn, Innovate, and Compete in the Knowledge Economy. John Wiley & Sons.
  • 1996. Organizational Learning and Competitive Advantage. London: SAGE Publications.
  • 1992. A Fuller Explanation: The Synergetic Geometry of R. Buckminster Fuller. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold.

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Sheryl Lynn Baas
Article by:

Sheryl Lynn Baas

Sheryl Lynn Baas is our Communications Manager at Toolshero and you might recognize her from our learning videos. Sheryl’s academic background is in Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology and she is the founder of the Sheryl Lynn Foundation, a non-profit for children and education in the Philippines. She’s a jack-of-all-trades and furthermore shares her gifts as a spiritual coach, presenter and DJ. Fun fact: she is former Miss Netherlands 2006.


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