The fear of failure is a massive factor in stifling creativity and innovation in many industries. Creativity is one of the most critical ingredients for success in today’s business environment. Creative thinking leads to innovative solutions, new products, and better ways of doing things. But all too often, even when creativity is valued by an organization, it remains unused because people are afraid to take risks or explore unfamiliar territories. They are worried they might make a mistake or be ridiculed if their ideas don’t work out. Creative Confidence shows how you can change this dynamic-by building up your and your staff’s Creative Confidence to feel more comfortable taking calculated risks in the workplace and encouraging others to do the same. Creative Confidence starts with recognizing that mistakes aren’t fatal. However, the fear of failure hinders you and your staff from gaining higher levels of Creative Confidence.
For example, in the book Creativity Inc, Pixar president Ed Catmull discusses the fear of failure and its impact on the company’s creativity. He talks about how they had to find ways to encourage risk-taking without fear of repercussion. They had to learn how to make failure okay and not be afraid of it. This allowed them to go from a struggling company in the early ’90s to become one of the most successful companies in the world today.
“Management’s job is not to prevent risk but to build the ability to recover.” — Ed Catmull.
I’d like to elaborate more on Ed’s quote by adding that preventing risk is important through controls and processes, and they should not distract employees from the goal. It should only be used as a framework and a tool giving teams the freedom and empowerment to make calculated mistakes and recover fast if things go wrong. This will eventually support positive organizational behavior that could form a competitive advantage.
What is the fear of failure, and how does it affect creativity in a company
Everybody heard about the “fear of failure,” but what exactly is it? For many people, fear of failure can be debilitating. It’s actually a psychological condition in which an individual is so afraid of failing at something that s/he avoids challenging themselves. This could also contribute to “performance anxiety,” which makes creative people mentally paralyzed in meetings or pitches, which is fed by the “imposter syndrome,” which also creates further doubts. So this will end up burying any potential opportunity for an organization and creating a dysfunctional culture that is difficult to change.
Imagine a whole organization filled with people who play it safe for years and punch in and out on time. The wheel will turn in a stable manner; however, that’s about it. Forget about people getting out of their way to make a customer happy, or This is one of the reasons why large companies acquire scale-ups instead of competing with them.
How to create an environment where risk-taking and creativity are encouraged
Changing a culture requires starting initiatives, sticking to new routines, overcoming resistance, and setting examples which will eventually influence the mindset of the employees to be more forgiving towards failure and expressing a higher level of creative Confidence. It also includes introducing controls that will lower the impact of failures and increase the appetite of the management and the board to employees taking risks coming up with new service or product ideas that could turn into profitable initiatives.
Making data available to enable employees to gain insights facilitates proposing and executing risky ideas with ways to manage risks.
The way I do it is when a team member comes up with a good idea and are excited about it, if it’s an area within their area of responsibility, I coach them to take the lead on it, help them calculate the risk by answering four questions:
- What’s the goal out of this project?
- What are the key milestones required to achieve this goal?
- What are the final deliverables after you have completed the project? The answer could include a checklist or manuals that people could use to ensure sustainability.
- Risks: What could go wrong?
- Finally, what are the success factors? (how will you mitigate those risks)
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The answers are usually kept in bullet points not exceeding 2 pages. The aim is also to prepare them and ensure that the impact is low if things go wrong and recovery is quick. Testing new services or ideas with new customers in controlled environments has been helping raise the team’s Confidence and reduce the impact of failed or delayed delivery.
This will help you create a group of passionate innovators that will spread the energy to others and be able to coach others in the future.
How to establish a healthy balance between control and creativity?
The answer to this is simple, setting deadlines, conducting regular reviews, adding a governance policy for approvals on budget and other resources will be enough to mitigate a risk moderately and reduce the chances of failure. Nothing will eliminate risks of failure, and the belief that removing such risks is naive.
There is always a delicate balance that needs to be struck between the need for control and for creativity. Creative people are often seen as lacking discipline, but they also need to be controlled for creative tasks to succeed. Creative people may accidentally neglect details of a project if they’re given too much free rein. Creative people may also hit creative walls when they’re pressured to meet deadlines or promotion goals. Creative people who feel unleashed can spiral into a lack of productivity. Creative individuals would do better with some degree of structure and accountability that comes with being “managed.” Creative work needs some degree of control to thrive. Creative work thrives on a combination of harnessing individual creativity while still providing some degree of restraint.
The approach mentioned above gives a macro view of making your company’s culture more creative and innovative producing outcomes that will put you ahead of your competition or even just cope with your competition. There are other variables I haven’t discussed in this article that I’ll discuss later.
Thank you for reading!
What are you currently struggling with or would like to learn more about? Share your story in the comments section.