Did you ever have an idea or feedback you wanted to share, but held back? Did you recently made a mistake but didn't feel safe enough to share it with your team? The chances are that there is not enough psychological safety in your team. A big topic at the moment. And I encourage you to learn more from Amy Edmonson on this topic, she is a Harvard professor specialized in this topic. She did a lot of research and wrote great articles about it.
This exercise gives the participants the opportunity to speak up about topics they were hesitant to share before. But in order to make this work, there needs to be a certain level of safety already. Repeat this exercise once and a while to grow over time.
This exercise is called Stinky Fish for a reason. The fish is something you have on your mind but didn't share at the time. That can be an idea, some feedback, or a hunch. If you put that fish in your inside pocket it is nicely hidden, and safe. You can put the fish in your pocket for whatever reason. The longer you keep that fish in your pocket, the more it stinks. And that makes it even harder to get the fish out. That is also the case for the thing you had in mind but didn't share at that moment.
What steps to take for the practice
This exercise can be done online and offline. As a facilitator, share the story of the stinky fish. Handout a drawing of a fish to the participants. It's your responsibility to create a safe environment for everyone to share their thoughts.
Give the participant the assignment to think of all the thoughts they have in mind, but didn't share with the group. Give them a timeframe of 5-10 minutes, individually.
Additionally you can think of questions like:
What everybody is thinking but no one is saying (silent problems)
The uncertainties that make people feel that they lost control (unknowns)
Things that are making people feel nervous or lose their focus (anxieties)
The emotions that get in the way and paralyze us (fear)
If the environment is safe enough, ask the participants to share one of their thoughts with the group. You can facilitate this by working in rounds. So everybody has the chance to share something, big or small.
Increasing psychological safety - because you'll feel freer to share your thoughts;
Finally shared things that were on your mind for a long time;
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