Psychological Safety

Introducing Arena – an interactive story game

With the growing complexity, psychological safety is in high demand. It is commonly known that diverse teams with a high level of psychological safety outperform other types of teams – especially in complex environments. However, psychological safety is situational and needs to be created and re-created continuously. In our work, we have found that working with psychological safety requires a deliberate focus on the dynamics of psychological safety, and a certain level of psychological safety to begin with. To create this initial understanding and basic level of psychological safety in a team, we have created ARENA.

What is ARENA?
ARENA is an interactive story game designed to be part of a workshop, enabling the teams to experience psychological safety in a non-confrontational way. In the interactive story the team will be presented with six dilemmas, where the participants are asked to choose one of the actions presented. Depending on the participants’ choices, the characters in the story will gain or lose the courage to speak up. During the workshop, the participants will make decisions for a team based on what is important for the characters in the story, thus training metallization and empathy. They will work together on many levels, experience a normalization of working together in a diverse team, and work together on creating their own “encourage courage” agreement to help them move forward. Please see the video below for more details:

What is the outcome of using ARENA?
After the team has experienced the interactive story in ARENA, we shift the focus and work with the team’s own psychological safety. We sum up by establishing a psychological safety agreement on “How will we encourage courage” and the team commits to use the agreement as a guideline for the next half year. Hence, by the end of the full-day workshop, the team will have an agreement on how to encourage courage in their own team.

How would the interactions be facilitated?
ARENA must be facilitated by a certified facilitator due to the complexity of working with the psychological safety of real teams and the vulnerability of the participants working with this topic of personal belonging and courage. We offer “train-the-trainer”-certifications, incl. materials/guides. ARENA consists of an introduction video and presentations of the characters that can be shared as pre-preparations. The workshop is centered around board pieces with physical cards, markers, and a participant’s handbooks for self-reflection before the team discussion. As of now, the game requires physical presence, but we might develop something together for the hybrid and global teams.

How do you get started?
We have chosen a “train-the-trainer” and license model for the ARENA business. This means that you only pay when you get something, as opposed to a subscription model. A number of trainers will participate in the certification, and you might purchase a number of additional sets that can be reused. When you need to facilitate, you should purchase the participant booklets through us.

Other perspectives on the use of ARENA?
We have used ARENA as a starting point for many different dialogues and further learning processes. Since ARENA is a story with a high density, there are a lot of possible segways to relevant processes that build on the physiological safety of the team. For instance, we have good experience facilitating the exercises: “You as a character” – where we let the participants describe themselves and perhaps each other in the language of ARENA, and: “Write your own dilemmas” – where the participants reflect upon current dilemmas that they face and what good and less good responses they imagine to those.

Arena Team presentation

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