The National Anthem seems to have become a lightning rod these days for controversy so I am asking anyone reading this post to please push aside any political views to the side for the moment. The goal of this post is to simply focus on the word brave and how it relates to innovation and creativity.
It is perplexing to me that so many companies have created cultures where simply sharing an idea is something that is considered risky or that requires someone to be brave. While this may seem odd it is, unfortunately, true. We have millions of employees literally scared to share anything that may be considered unusual or different out of fear of being laughed at, being told their idea is dumb, or having to listen to all of the negativity that accompanies new suggestions.
The question I have for you is what would your company anthem be? Would it be "company of the free (to share ideas) and home of the brave (to take bold action)" or, perhaps, something such as "organization of constrained and home of the scared?"
Free and brave sounds so much better.
I have come to the conclusion, based on research and evidence, that the biggest inhibitor to innovation is FEAR. Fear of being laughed at. Fear of being seen as different. And, as we progress in our careers, fear of being fired. Ironically, it is the fear of being fired that may end up costing you your job in the long run. Here's why.
To avoid being fired you are most likely doing two things, one of which is good and one that is, well, not so good. If you are not stealing, saying awful things, or being a rotten person you reduce your risk of being fired (maybe....and that is a whole different topic on ethics). If you are playing it safe, following the rules, and always concerned about your boss and managing up, you have a pretty good chance of eventually getting a pick slip. Why? Because in the long run your company doesn't need you. What your company really needs is someone who brings bold ideas, novel ways of solving problems, and unique perspectives on how to delight customers. These bring perceived risk - and I stress perceived - but also possible tremendous benefits. Who in their right mind would fire someone who constantly offers innovative solutions or radical ideas that clients want, and even better, begin to demand. If someone fires you for being too creative to offering too much value, they are doing you a favor. Need proof?
Walt Disney, Thomas Edison, JK Rowling, and Oprah are all people who have been fired. It seemed to work out pretty well for all of them.