How Greenberg Fosters Psychological Safety

By Pauleanna Reid

With 220 million meetings conducted each year, there is no doubt that it is an essential forum for exchanging information, building relationships and enabling collaboration in business. However, as essential as meetings appear to be to our professional lives, not all of them are as productive, impactful or collaborative as we intend. While the time spent in meetings has increased by 10% over the last two decades, issues continue to arise surrounding this form of gathering. Some grievances include its lack of overall structure, productivity, and inclusive spaces where workers feel safe to share their best ideas. Overlooking these critical areas can cost businesses dearly and prevent organizations from moving the needle on their objectives. Contrarily, leaders who are recognized for prioritizing psychological safety across their teams bring in an average of $4.3 million more in revenue per year.

Amanda Greenberg is spearheading the important work needed to rethink team meetings. Her mission is to provide a solution that amplifies unheard voices and reduces the groupthink that is often fostered in traditional meeting structures. As co-founder of Balloon, this insights-based platform solves systemic organizational issues, like cognitive biases and group dynamics, by redefining the way teams collaborate, making them more productive, innovative, informed, and inclusive. The platform provides leaders with a framework where each team member’s contribution is encouraged, incorporated and valued – a system which leads to deeper creativity and innovative ideas.

Balloon has played an integral part in guiding the teams at Amazon, UScellular, TrueCar, Estée Lauder and others to reduce meeting times by 70%, while bringing more voices into discussions. This is done through a process known as flights; a set of open-ended questions designed to solicit solutions and gather votes from team members and potential customers. Flights are flexible for distributed and remote teams and can be completed asynchronously. They are also fully anonymous to ensure team members have the opportunity to have their voices heard, and contribute to important decisions, regardless of their position or role. “Everything is organized by a balloon score, which gives a leader and a team information about approval, buy-in, consensus. So you know where you have alignment and where you don’t,” said Greenberg. “Also, their people can remove anonymity and put their name on their ideas so they get credit where it’s due and then you export everything. The company can have all this data.”

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Before founding Balloon, Greenberg was a public health researcher, transforming scientific research into national behavior-change campaigns for the U.S. CDC and EPA. In a role where she was accountable for researching protocols, she would often pull together groups of experts to build campaigns that revolved around how people think or make change on a national level. This comprehensive understanding of the human cognitive experience set the stage for the challenges Greenberg wished to solve with Balloon. “It was there that I was trying to get ideas, feedback, or insights out of large, globally distributed groups,” she recalled. “I identified that our business tools and processes just don’t address the way our brains work in a group, or how we share information and make decisions. So, I became obsessed with solving that problem and built the platform.”

To launch and scale Balloon, Greenberg focused on three primary objectives to ensure the business was positioned to be truly disruptive and impactful:

Zero in on the core problem to be solved

As part of a two-person founding team, Greenberg recognized the importance of taking on a “launch and learn” approach. The team focused on creating an initial rolle out where the product was shared with a prospective client. Success would then be measured if the use of Ballon produced the intended results; a process that garnered higher quality and more diverse information. “We’re really focused on the core of our product, which is to identify how do you unlock all of this unreachable data that’s in people’s minds? The highest quality ideas, the most accurate, honest feedback and just the deepest insight,” explained Greenberg. “And how do you do it in the most efficient way possible? And how do you give everyone time and space by creating psychological safety to make sure their ideas, and their feedback, and their insights are heard. Balloon does that.”

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Having this clarity on Balloon’s value proposition was even further sharpened during the changing workforce spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic. When teams were forced to work remotely and find alternative ways to bring everyone together to work collaboratively, the case for platforms like Balloon became undeniably clear. “Especially in the face of the great resignation and all of these different pieces that have come to be, in so many ways it’s very much like a ‘why now?’ moment for us in our products becoming so essential,” said Greenberg. “The ability to innovate and change quickly in the face of a lot of change, and unprecedented change, is so important. And then there is the need to hear from more people to really unlock that collective intelligence of your company in the face of a lot of change, or in a lot of turnover.”

Establish partnerships to maximize impact

A focus on building strategic partnerships to co-create a library of templates with leaders, researchers and experts that cut across various industries became a game changing decision that amplified Balloon’s reach and credibility. Their library has grown to boast 150+ expert-authored templates from 40+ authors to ensure company leaders ask the right questions to drive decision-making amongst their teams. “Whether it’s Adam Grant, Arianna Huffington, Arlan Hamilton, Richard Parsons, or Matt Mullenweg, you’re able to bring their expertise into your leadership and into your company,” noted Greenberg. “They’ve been a game-changer in terms of providing better outcomes for our customers,” said Greenberg. “They’re able to say, okay, these are questions that Adam Grant came up with that I’m able to bring within my company to drive a better meeting, or whatever their specific use case is.”

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Strike the right balance between patience and urgency

Greenberg’s advice to other creators is to allow yourself time to reset and focus on the long haul of the journey. “I think having long-term patience while having urgency in the moment to make quick decisions, that balance is really important for entrepreneurs,” stated Greenberg. “Wait and see things play out. Be patient enough to plant all the seeds and fertilize all of it, and then have your seasons of harvesting. When you stick with it long enough, you really start to see the effect of all of these different things compounding.”


Photo Source: Noah Bornstein

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