Fear Factor

The fear of failure never quite disappears over time

This is a new format for me. I’ve written more than 500 posts on topics like systems thinking, design and design thinking, the psychology of innovation, and more and yet one of the key elements that are often lost in all of this is the innovator themselves. Despite my background having studied behaviour change and psychology, caring for the innovator is not something I’ve spent much of my time writing about. I certainly haven’t done it with me as part of the subject matter.

Yet, it’s that very thing ( putting yourself at the centre of the work) that is really the innovator’s way of learning. We learn by doing and I think something like innovation — which is about bringing new ideas to life, trying new things (and that means not achieving all you want), and then bringing that idea into the market (even if that’s just the market of ideas). And when we do this in a public way, it’s scary.

An Innovator’s Common Cause

I was reminded of that start-up fear when I was having a tutorial on website development offered as a perk from my blog host (Automattic — who I’d highly recommend). I make it a point to refresh my blog every two years or so and this time I wanted to start incorporating more media as the purpose and aim of the site have evolved. I am doing a lot of things that are new again from podcast development to video production and I found myself learning a lot.

I had this same feeling I had when I first started writing regularly. It’s one of the reasons I decided it was time to write this. Just as when I started writing online, I have no idea whether anyone will read this. I don’t know if anyone will care. I also don’t know what this will look like over time.

It’s that fear that comes into the work of doing something new and innovating that is at the heart of everything from creating new technology tools to simply using a new means to organize work. The moment an innovation becomes something more public and for other people — in service of their needs, not just yours — the fear of failure, not doing the ‘best’ or having people go ‘huh’? comes in.

One thing that this has taught me is that when this type of fear comes in — keep moving. I’m probably on to something interesting. The woods might be dark, but there will be light.

Photo by Patrick Mueller on Unsplash