Getting Greater Creativity by Getting Past the Fear of Failure
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Most all of us would like everyone on our teams to be more creative
(including ourselves). We celebrate the creative genius, dream of the
breakthrough product or service idea, and marvel at those who can make these
As a leader you know that higher levels of creativity can make your teams
more successful, productive and feel more satisfied in their work. The upsides
to high levels of creativity are many. The downsides are few, but the biggest
one is people's fear of making a mistake, being wrong or failing.
As a leader you can increase people's creative output by reducing this
downside risk. When you can reduce people's fear of failure you unleash their
ability and willingness to try something new, to think differently, and to solve
problems more creatively.
Here are seven specific suggestions that will help you reduce the real, and
perceived, risks of failure and therefore skyrocket the creativity of those
Celebrate ideas (even though you know they won't all work). The first
step to greater creativity and innovation is more ideas. If you want great ideas
you must have a larger pool to draw from. In order to get those ideas you must
celebrate, value and appreciate them. People feel ownership to their ideas, so
you must treat them with the same deep respect that they have for them. So, the
first step toward reducing the fear of failure is getting the ideas to start
Let people try it in a small way first. The idea doesn't have to be
implemented across the globe. Let people try their ideas in a small test; with
one division, one department or in one office. Let them try it themselves first.
Give people the confidence to try in small ways. This lowers the risk of failure
and allows them to hone the idea for greater future success. Many people do this
for the second reason, but the first reason - to make people comfortable in
trying it - it just as important.
Give people a test budget. Why not give a person or a team an amount
of money, resources and/or time to try out their ideas? Give them free reign to
innovate and try things that are in alignment with your team and organizational
goals. Their ideas, their budget, their results - be they success or failure.
When we feel more complete ownership, we are less likely to be stymied by the
fear of failure.
Let go of your perceived notions. You can be a big barrier to your
group's creativity. Let's face it: others are trying to come up with good ideas,
but they are likely filtering them (consciously or not) based on their
perception of whether you will like, agree with or support those ideas. You are
a block to the process! If you are willing to let people test things out, you
need to get your opinions out of the way. Can you have an opinion? Sure. Can you
even share it? Of course! What you don't want to do is allow your opinion to be
the block to the idea. Give people the go-ahead to test and then share your
concerns so that those ideas might help improve their test. Share your thoughts
first and you run the risk of them abandoning the fragile idea too soon.
Model by failing yourself. Am I suggesting you fail? Yes. More than
that I am suggesting you let people know when you fail. If you show your
willingness to fail and your openness to mistakes you will gradually make other
more willing to try as well. You are a leader and you are being watched. Model
the behaviors you want to see in others - take a risk!
Celebrate the failures as well as the successes! Consider an award for
failures or mistakes. Many organizations have recognition for great ideas that
are implemented successfully. Why not have a travelling trophy that celebrates a
mistake done in pursuit of team or organizational goals? Even the best baseball
players only get a hit one out of every three tries - likewise the more tries
your team takes - the more hits they will get. Celebrate tries - even if they
lead to failures.
Redefine failure. Failure need not be final, though that is how many
view it. Model using your failures as fertilizer for future success! Teach
others how to learn from their mistakes by asking reflective questions (ask
yourself the same questions too). When we use well-meaning failures as learning
opportunities, we take much of the emotional sting out of them.
Pick one of these suggestions and implement it today. You may see immediate
results, but if you don't realize that people have built up their fear over a
long period of time - and not just at work. Stick with these suggestions;
practicing them regularly. You will chip away at the fear and uncertainty, and
unleash the new ideas, approaches, and solutions that you have always dreamed
About the Author
Kevin Eikenberry is a leadership expert and the Chief Potential Officer of
The Kevin Eikenberry Group, a learning consulting company that helps Clients
reach their potential through a variety of training, consulting and speaking
services. You can learn more about him and a special offer on his newest book,
Remarkable Leadership: Unleashing Your Leadership Potential One Skill at
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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2007-09-24 18:38:00 in Personal Articles