Fear and Innovation

One Fear illustration from Book of Fears
One Fear illustration from Book of Fears (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We are taught from an early age to conform.  Think about it.  Schools emphasize conformity with rules, regulations and a system built on recitation and memorization. We are told there are two types of answers – “right” and “wrong” ones. I suppose when speaking about math and science, it could be stated that there are only two types of answers or conclusions – it’s either right or wrong.  But is that true?  Are there really only two types of answers?  Or is that merely a mechanism that makes it easier to grade tests and papers?

Is it any wonder that we are programmed from an early age NOT to be innovative or creative with our thinking?  Is it any wonder that we are afraid or fearful to take a leap and question something?  But what are we afraid of? Essentially, we are afraid to be wrong.  We are afraid to fail.  So what do we do?  We let our fear stop us and in doing so we stifle creativity and innovation.

We have been trained to obey rules, comply, sit and stand in an orderly fashion, “don’t rock the boat”, “be a good soldier”, and in the process we stifle innovation and growth.  The problem is that “system” left over from the industrial age doesn’t work anymore. The world has changed.  These days, people are entering a “workforce” that is no longer contained within geographic boundaries with an established set of rules and controls. It’s out of our control. Wow, that’s enough to make anyone afraid.

So, what do most people do when their world is changing and they are scared to death?  Sadly, they tend to desperately hold onto a system that is broken and no longer serves them well.  They spend enormous amounts of energy defending this broken system from the past because it’s all they know.

We can either succumb to change, and merely react to it little by little over time, until there isn’t much left of a life we once knew, or we can face our fears and take responsibility for our lives.  In order to do that, we need to change our outlook and identify what it is we are really afraid of.  Ironically, what most of us fear is failing, so in an effort to protect ourselves from this fear – we ultimately fail because we end up with a life that brings few rewards.

Listen to what Sue Bryce and Seth Godin have to say on this topic.

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Abundance or Scarcity – What’s Your Choice?

I read Seth Godin’s blog this morning and as usual, he was right on target with his observations of our culture and the shift in our economy.  We are moving out of the “industrial age”, an economy based on scarcity and into a “connection economy” Roller skaters jump over teammates, Tokyo, Japanbased on abundance – abundance of  “choice, connections and access to knowledge.”

In our new “connection economy”, we can connect with more people and “leverage our skills at a higher level.” This is leading to two races:  a race to the bottom which is forcing us to lower our prices, because it’s easy to find plenty of people who will do something cheaper or a race to the top which gives us the opportunity to use our new connections, resources and knowledge and become the one “they can’t live without.”

“The connection economy doesn’t create jobs where we get picked and then get paid; the connection economy builds opportunities for us to connect, and then demands that we pick ourselves.”  It’s no longer sufficient to just deliver a job at a fair price; a “connection economy” is all about standing out and being remarkable.

We need to invent – not duplicate.

So how do we stand out in a world of noise?  I believe we need to be authentic and true to ourselves.  We need to take the ultimate risk and listen to that voice inside because that’s the voice that should be heard.  We need to be vulnerable in order to race to the top.  At the end of the day, we are all human and we can spot a phony or an imitation when we see one.

Most of all we need to remember, we are human beings with basic human needs  – one being the need to connect with our fellow human. We don’t connect merely on devices alone – you connect by telling your “story”.   If your story resonates with others – it spreads. Today that means it gains traction quickly and spreads globally.  But you don’t connect with people by doing the same things as everyone else or regurgitating the same information.  You make connections because people are human and they’ll always spot “the real deal” in a crowd.

So be vulnerable, be different, be brave enough to stand out with a fresh approach to old problems and you won’t need to race to the bottom along with others clamoring for those “scarce” jobs.  You’ll be the one carving out the opportunities and picking yourself.

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