The F Word

Hazel Turner, February 13 2014

The key to success is for you to make a habit throughout your life of doing the things you fear

~ Vincent Van Gogh

Welcome to the first edition of the Innovation and Enterprise blog, which will be a monthly update of information, ideas and case studies. Each month will be themed, and in the true spirit of innovation I am going to start with failure!

‘Failing’, ‘mistakes’ and ‘errors’ can be objectively understood as part of the process of learning, creating and innovating. From a young age we learnt though a process of trial and error, from learning to walk and talk to choosing romantic partners (kissing of frogs is optional). However, as we grew, our sense of both our own and others expectations of us also grew and, in many, the concept of ‘failure’ can become something to fear. A fear of failure is thought to be linked to perfectionist ideals familiar to many of us, primarily avoidance and procrastination. Personally, I hate housework but when I have a deadline for an assignment I develop an unstoppable desire to reorganise my kitchen cupboards.

Ironically a fear of failure can increase the likelihood of perceived failure because it can paralyse creative thinking. Barbara Fredrickson, a Positive Psychologist, has researched and written extensively about how fear narrows thinking and conversely, positive emotions open up thinking making us more receptive and more creative recognise and overcome our fear of failure is key to innovation and positive emotions could be an unblocker, enabling us to open up our thinking and counteract fear. So let me challenge you to do two things this month; write a list of things that scare you and also a list of things that bring you joy and happiness then make some time to do one thing from each list this month. Public speaking has taught me that the fear won’t go away, you just have to get on and do it anyway!

Right… I’m off to look a spider in the eye… I’ve been at their mercy for too long…

Your ideas for overcoming the fear of failure

On the 14th January we held a speed networking event called ‘The Innovation Accelerator’, bringing together 38 members of staff with a flare for innovation. The event was a high energy hour and as well as enabling the sharing of ideas and connections was “the most fun hour I’ve ever had at work”. Small groups posed key questions to each other about innovation and each month I will be sharing their suggestions with you:

Are you ahead of your time?

A good idea at the wrong time can be the wrong thing to do today. Innovation can happen ahead of its time, so be prepared to plant seeds and be patient. Don’t let timing discourage you from being innovative. Clive Sinclair’s innovative but flawed pursuits in the 80’s for electric personal transport are now only just becoming a feasible and perhaps a future necessity. However, his affordable computer the ZX Spectrum helped kick start the home/personal computer industry into the internet smartphone/tablet world we know today

Joseph Stepney, Senior IT Business Partner

Reflective Questions

  • What risks have I taken and that have had a positive influence on my life/work?
  • What would I try if there was no chance of failure?
  • What avoidance/procrastination strategies do I have and how might I overcome them?
  • What does a positive and create environment look and feel like for me and my team and how can I create it?

Adam Owen Business Development Manager, Countryside Service

The most innovative activity I have been involved with is transforming country parks. A £14million bid to re-invent our country parks and ensure they deliver customer needs whilst maintaining financial security.

My particular contribution to supporting innovation to flourish is consistently challenge the status quo, allow people to think differently about solutions and support them in delivering alternative solutions.

My top tip for innovating at Hampshire County Council is, just go out on a limb, write down your ideas in a coherent manner, garner support quietly and then present an excellent business case.

The best question you can ask yourself if you want to be more innovative is “can I cope with the fact some of my ideas will fail, the fact some will be ridiculed, the fact the organisation or people may not be in the right place for some ideas to flourish?”

Remember there will be that moment when an innovation is brilliant, the timing is perfect and change will come. It is for this reason you should play with new ideas, allow yourself to be creative, be different to others, challenge authority and ultimately strive for excellence.

Useful Links

  • Brene Brown Ted talk on vulnerability
  • Overcoming Perfectionism
  • Barbara Fredrickson book on Positivity
  • Transforming the Council Through You

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