Fear and Innovation

Analyse your creative fears

Two types of fear can prevent us from being creative:

  • fears about ourselves
  • fears about how we will be received by other people.

‘Fears about yourself prevent you from doing your best work’ [1]

People often have great ideas but they hesitate to act on them. They start to doubt whether it is such a good idea or they think they don’t have the skills to turn the idea into reality.

‘Fears about your reception by others prevent you from doing your own work’ [1]

This can occur where there are accepted norms. Someone may have a great idea for a new product, an improved service or a way to increase productivity. Yet, they don’t suggest it because people will see it as a radical idea or they won’t see the need for improvement or simply because ‘That’s not how we do things round here’.

Analyse your fear and take action.
When you have an idea but you hesitate to act on it it is very helpful to analyse why you are hesitating.

If the hesitation comes from yourself don’t let your fear hold you back. Take small steps to develop your idea. Take it from something that’s just in your head to something simple that you can look at. Write it down, make a sketch, make a simple cardboard prototype. Look at it again and evaluate it in it’s new form. If it has potential work on it some more and review it again. This cycle of creation and evaluation is useful to deciding whether ideas have potential. You can stop at any point if the idea doesn’t have the promise you first thought it had. If you evaluate it and it does have potential, then keep going. Share it with someone you trust. Get their opinions or get them to help you develop it further.

Are you hesitating because of what other people will think? Look at your idea from their perspective. What do you think they will object to? What’s so different from the currently thinking? What is similar to what is currently accepted? Can you move from the current situation to your future scenario in two or three incremental steps? Would these steps be more acceptable to other people? Would each step deliver some benefit on it’s own? If so, then you have a way to implement your idea that will encounter less resistance.

Propose the first step and outline it’s benefits. But, like a good poker player, don’t reveal your hand. Don’t outline the subsequent steps. Try to get the first step adopted, wait for it to be implemented. Then propose the next step that will get you further towards your big idea. Organisations can be slow to change and it can be easier to implement radial innovation in small steps that people are comfortable with. If you are concerned about what other people will think, sneak up on them, implement your innovation by stealth.

[1] The quotes are from one of my favourite books on creativity, ‘Art and Fear’ by David Bayles and Ted Orland.


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