Tom had a problem. The problem had been nagging him and his entire department for quite some time.

The team had come up with some pretty creative ideas they felt would solve the problem. But when the time came to implement solutions, they always went with a more conventional, safer solution. And looking back now, their results were as predictable as the solution.

They had made a little progress, but the problem still existed - and was becoming more than a nuisance. Now Tomís boss Sylvia was asking about it.

On the way home from work the day Sylvia suggested the problem needed to be truly solved, Tom thought about why he hadnít led the team to one of the more innovative solutions they had developed. The more he thought about it, the more he realized this was a pattern for him and his team.

They could come up with great ideas, but they never seemed to be implemented.

Over dinner, he shared his dilemma and his insights with his wife, Angela. During the conversation, Angela also helped him see that even talking with her - where he should feel the most safe - that his comfort zone was being challenged, and he still had fears - fears that were keeping him from moving forward on the more creative ideas.

During their evening walk they discussed what those fears might be, and before Tom went to bed he wrote them down.

Fears that Keep You From Innovation

The fear of no.
Someone(s) will say you canít do it, so you don`t even try or ask.
The fear of failure or mistake. The idea is innovative, so you see it as more risky, and you wouldn`t want to fail - or you might be ridiculed or looked down upon if it fails.
The fear of resistance. Not everyone may agree with your innovative approach, and you aren`t sure if you can handle or even deal with the resistance.
The fear of extra work. The more innovative solution may take more time to sell or influence (see the other fears above), and you aren`t sure you have or want to invest the time to make it work.

Tom realized that not all of these fears plagued him right now (he wasn`t afraid of the extra work or effort that would be required, for example), but the other two affected him now and at other times in the past.

He thought about these fears on the way to work the next day, and he realized these fears could affect individuals, teams of people or even entire organizations! And as he thought about it even further, he realized there was another fact that could stall innovation, even if the other fears were conquered or were non-existent.


He thought about the times when people came up with new ideas but did nothing. Mainly because in the end they really weren`t displeased enough with the way things currently were.

The first thing Tom did when he got to the office was fire up his laptop and make a list of his four fears and one fact:

The Five Reasons I Don`t Innovate

The Fact of Complacency
The Fear of No
The Fear of Failure or Mistakes
The Fear of Resistance
The Fear of Extra Work

He printed the list, placed it on his office bulletin board and resolved to share this with his team - and Sylvia.

As he put it on the board he decided his biggest fear in this particular situation had been The Fear of No. And when he really thought about it, he recognized that Sylvia really wanted change, so his fear wasnít very justified.

When you think about the creative ideas you or your team have had lately, ask yourself why you haven`t taken action. Consider these five reasons and see if you can`t get past your fears and move forward towards innovation!

Potential Pointer:

Even the most change resistant people recognize the value of new ideas. But before you can be more innovative, you must address complacency and the fears of no, failure, resistance and extra effort.

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