In a 2015 U.S. Innovation study by the management consulting company Accenture, American executives and managers were asked about their companies’ attitudes toward innovation. Sixty percent agreed or strongly agreed that their organization struggled to learn from past mistakes. More than 70 percent agreed or strongly agreed that opportunities to harness underdeveloped areas died because companies couldn’t find an internal home to nurture them. This makes it incredibly difficult to tip-toe into the innovation space when the cards are stacked against it. No doubt, change is hard—but the hardships of not addressing change will be far harder.
So where to start? How about by not waiting on a true threat that could take your business down. Most companies are reactive or inactive when it comes to fighting futuristic business fears. The onus is on the day-to-day, so long-term thinking takes a back-row seat. It’s time to flip that thinking. Every company should put in the hard work now to proactively identify a potential daunting fear that could break their business. Not just because fear leads to growth, but because it’s better for you to take down that fear before it takes down you. Exposing, then addressing, that fear forces examination and an action plan. It can kick-start innovation. It can help you fight your way back to relevancy.
There are four types of business fears that companies may face. Courage Brands discuss the consequences of letting any of these fears run unchecked. It makes defeating a fear feel inevitable by aggressively shrinking it and chipping away at its weakness.
Are you still relevant in your industry today? Did someone figure out a better way to position, market, and outsell a product or service that revolutionized your industry? If so, what’s next for you? Ambitious competitors that have yet to make themselves known are the ones we all need to watch out for. These ambitious companies are nowhere on our radar, but they’re probably relentlessly planning an attack out of an MBA dorm room or Silicon Valley garage. When you are a known entity in an established category, focused purely on protecting what you already have, you land yourself in a position where you could suffer from an industry blind spot. You may think you are untouchable, but you aren’t. None of us are.
You aren’t trying to compete with your known competition and their products, and you aren’t going to make your company successful because you get more people to migrate from using your competitor’s products to buying and using your own. Your success is going to be getting people to move away from the way they currently solve problems to choosing your way of solving their problems or meeting their needs. The big picture is that your company needs the courage to address its product fears head-on with knowledge, faith, and action. Doing so will transform the idea of the product and potentially change the trajectory of the entire industry. One of the largest problems in corporate America is a lack of courage, largely because there’s a deficit when it comes to courageous leaders.
Is your business “neighborhood” not what it used to be? This was the predicament facing premium content provider HBO with satellite and cable television. Thanks to streaming via the Internet, cable TV was not the neighborhood it used to be. From a service fear standpoint, HBO is an excellent example of a service provider that is being courageous and striving to make the right moves to stay ahead of potential business pitfalls. Providing a service for cord cutters and evolving its services are just a few ways HBO showed it could keep its house in its existing gated community and still pick up an apartment in the big digital city.
Imagine the surprise when the case started being made to abolish the Black & Decker name—a brand that 98 percent of tradespeople were familiar with—entirely from the professional tradesman category. The problem?—the popcorn maker. Tradesmen wouldn’t be caught dead on a construction site lugging around the same brand that made the toaster and popcorn maker their spouses regularly use at home. Even though the Black & Decker tools remained a superior product, a majority of rough-and-tumble types were afraid to arrive at a job in fear of being mocked by their peers. We have drilled squarely into a perception fear.
One way to combat any of the mentioned fears is by assigning an experimental task force (ETF)—a mission-focused internal “special forces” squad—to a fear or blind spot. Where most of your company remains ground soldiers, the ETF gets the time, space, and budget to tackle big problems that could pop up in the future. They are focused on their mission and empowered to unearth or recommend innovative, revenue-generating opportunities before your competitors do. Wherever you need courage the most is where you should employ your ETF.
The good news is courage and innovation in business are team sports. Therefore, combating fear, assuming you’ve rallied your Believers, can be, too. This is just one way the Believers at your company can smartly identify your industry fears, product fears, service fears, perception fears, and the realities of your personal fears head-on. High-pressure situations give us the opportunity to learn. Fear is the ultimate filter we must go through before we can begin to make calculated courageous decisions. The more you address those fears, the weaker those fears should become—and the more courageous, creative and innovative your company can be.
If you would like a step-by-step process on how to unlock courage, creativity and innovation in your business, pick up Return On Courage at Amazon. Or, reach out to me directly—I’m happy to share more about the steps we would take to transforming you into a Courage Brand®.
Ryan Berman is an author, keynote speaker and the founder of Courageous; a create-the-change company that builds and leads Courage Brands®. Ryan has helped install courage in the stories and culture at Google, Kellogg’s Europe, charity: water, Major League Baseball, Snapchat, Johnson & Johnson, Cereal Partners Worldwide and US Ski & Snowboard. His book ‘Return on Courage’ shows how during these courage deficient times, courage is a competitive advantage for those leaders who choose to unlock it. Berman also has his own altruistic Courage Brand called Sock Problems: a sock company that “socks” different problems in the world.