Burst of Innovation - Fear, Comfort, Constraints


For my first 10-minute bust of innovation, I thought I’d tackle a more intimate topic surrounding innovation: Fear, Comfort, and Constraints. 


Let’s start with FEAR: 

Fear hits you right in the gut. Fear of failure, fear of consequences, fear of looking stupid, fear of looking worthy…the list goes on. It shows up as anxiety or stress. Usually, it shows up as talking ourselves out of speaking up, out of doing something we want to do. 

Here’s the thing about fear I want you to know…

…fear is actually hardwired into us. It's primal. As humans we have fear. That's why I actually think the whole dare to be fearless is kind of silly because we can't eliminate fear. But, what I'm hoping is when we recognize how it shows up for us, then we can actually move past it. In the old days, fear is what kept us from being eaten by a saber tooth tiger. But in the modern world, fear plays tricks on us. 

I recently read a study that shows that 85% of what we fear or worry about doesn't even come true. We worry that our boss will think our idea is stupid. We worry that it'll fail. We worry that we're not the ones that should be having this idea and other people will shut us down. 85% of that doesn't even come true. Most of our fear is actually highly self-imposed. We use that fear to shut ourselves down before we get those innovative ideas out there. I think this is particularly true with innovation because it feels risky. It feels like being on the edge and that is a scary feeling.

Fear often is what holds us back from innovating. We can't have innovation without fear. 

It's not about being fearless, it's about embracing that fear and figuring out how to push through it. As I said, the exercise, in the end, is going to help you recognize that in yourself.

The second one I want to talk about is COMFORT. 

Let's face it, it's easier to stay where we are than it is to shift. Even if we don't like it, at least we know it. At least we don't rock the boat. Comfort is us trying to stay safe. Comfort is us doing what we've always done to avoid that unknown, to avoid that shift. In our minds, it's to avoid being unsafe. And again our brain is hardwired to be safe, right? In today's world that comfort and wanting to feel comfortable is actually what holds us back.

Let me talk about the third one, CONSTRAINTS:

The third one that really, sabotages us is constraints. What I mean by that is constraints of the system or the environment that we're in. Sometimes those are self-created. Oftentimes they are the systems that we work in, inside companies and with teams. And I can't tell you the number of conversations I've had where someone's come up to me and said, "Hey, I've tried and tried, but I'm just getting beat down, and beat down, and beat down. I'm done. I'm kind of over trying to launch those ideas because I just can't get any traction and it's exhausting."

Here's the thing about constraints, oftentimes it's actually even more insidious than we realize. That example I gave you was someone who could see the constraints, but oftentimes we don't even realize it's happening until that ball and chain is weighing us down, and we're so exhausted we don't want to do anymore. It’s like that old phrase,  “death by a thousand cuts” - constantly being shut down and shut down and shut down. And that's culture, that's system, that's routines that we've created and didn't even know we created.

It's really hard to get around that brick wall if you don't even recognize that the brick wall is there. With constraints, I want you to think about your environment, and where in that environment you're constantly getting shut down. Or maybe you're shutting other people down and don't even realize it. And again, that can be culture, that can be process, that can be the system, that can be routine.


Let me share a quick example with you. I have this Greek diner that I go to all the time. My kids and I go almost every Saturday after hiking or whatever kid thing we have that day. One day my son turns to me and says, "Hey, what if we go and try that new restaurant down the street? I want to know if their food is any good." I respond with a hard "No." and instantly go into fight or flight mode. I turn to him and I say, "Liam, what if their food is bad? I don't want to risk having a bad meal today." He looks at me and says, "Mom, is having a bad meal really something that is that risky? Do you really care that much about it?" With that, I realized what happened in that moment. I conjured up all this fear of change. I wanted to be comfortable. I wanted to go to the place where I could recite the menu, front, back and sideways. I wanted to have the meal that I know will be decent enough, and not risk something that isn't even that big of a risk. That's the irony of it.

And you know what? We did go to the new restaurant and it was fine. It wasn't that great, but I had conjured up all this fight or flight in my head, all this fear of trying something new, all this desire to be comfortable. And the routine that I created, every Saturday going to this Greek restaurant, became my constraint and I didn't even realize it. I was so in the habit of just going to this one place, and it made me really think about where in the rest of my work and life am I letting fear guide my decisions? Am I letting constraints hold me back? Am I letting comfort guide the way that I am trying new things, that I'm putting risks out there, that I'm being innovative? And I think you'll find if you take inventory too, it's in more places than you think.

Watch the video to learn about the killer exercise that will help you recognize and push through your FEAR, FAILURE, AND CONSTRAINTS.

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