People Before Tech: The Importance of Psychological Safety and Teamwork in the Digital Age

Author: Duena Blomstrom

Date discussed: 28 February 2023

Review by: Mae Keary

“Giving people more money, titles, responsibility or perks, while nice und useful, is not nearly as good as giving them a work environment where they feel heard, supported, and can flourish. It’s that simple.”

This quote sums up ‘new ways of working’, Duena’s theme on writing this fascinating book. The author has skilfully woven together the attributes of personal management with that of computer skills, to provide a fresh approach to new ways of thinking and working.

In doing so she applies her own terminology to describe concepts raised in her book. For example, she introduces ‘human debt’, which relates to a lack of emotional quotient (EQ) in the workplace. One  where human connection and teamwork have been neglected, demoted, and shunned. It is worth exploring Chapter 1 to find out more about digital disruption and the speed of technology, in which extreme growth happened in organizations, but mistrust thrived.

Next, she introduces Agile, a mindset to introduce new ways of thinking (WoT), and of working (WoW) to bring change at team and people levels, and to demonstrate the missing care and respect that appears to be missing. Thoughts of how to do this are expressed in Chapter 2.  Her goal is to eradicate Human Debt through Psychological Safety, but before that the concept of team as a group is examined, and where change can be affected fastest. This is explored in depth in Chapter 3, plus how to empower it through Psychological Safety.

She argues that the missing factor is the lack of empathy shown towards staff, who are not prioritized and valued. To resolve this missed opportunity and to invest in people, Duena examines in more depth her new idea, of ‘Psychological Safety,’ which is a set of behaviours and a handful of components to focus on and to effect change.  Chapter 4 explores the idea together with ‘team dynamics’, where the relationship of these two concepts is explained.

The author’s great concern is to improve employee happiness, and in Chapter 5 she illustrates the application of Psychological Safety and EmotionaI Intelligence in practice. Surprisingly, HR is rediscovered, and coupled with Agile methodologies to invigorate workplaces. Her thoughts on impression management are helpful, as it is yet another fear leaders can help resolve.

In the final chapters, 6/7 case studies and personal experiences are used to describe ways of allowing humanity and emotions back into the workplace. Plus, impressions of her post-pandemic view of the world, and the effects of digital transformation. Learning to trust and understand humanity is now wanted and welcomed in high-tech companies. People vs technology is at the heart of this book, and in particular, the reaffirmation of our humanity in the wake of the rapid pace of digitalization and other technological changes. All levels of staff in organisations would find this book exciting to read.

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