The paradox of fear!

Whether you discuss at the personal level, at the business level or at governmental level, most people will espouse the value of a creative, innovative and entrepreneurial culture.

Therefore, it is amazing how many individuals; businesses and governments avoid actually taking actions that would encourage such a culture in their own lives or organisations.

One of the main reasons appears to be fear. The most obvious reason in our risk-averse society is the fear of failure. However, an even greater reason for not encouraging such a culture is the fear of losing control.

By its very nature, creativity requires a level of freedom and a journey into the unknown that militates against our natural desire to be in control. Whether it is an individual that is afraid to lose the control in their life that a steady job provides; whether it is the CEO that sees such moves as a challenge to his or her authority, or whether it is the government that wants to retain power at the centre, the idea of something without strict guarantees of success is scary.

This inertia seems to be a good move in the short term and can provide a level of stability for a period of time. However, this inertia will also lead to eventual stagnation and instability. For long term growth of individuals, businesses and governments there is a need for creative and innovative solutions.

History is littered with examples of governments, businesses and individuals that have failed because of their fear of losing control and because they lacked the willingness to change as a result.

Civilisations such as the Mayans and the Romans, through to the Soviet Union and many South American countries, all failed because of lack of innovation in a controlled environment. There are many examples of once-leading businesses that were hierarchically structured and failed to embrace change such Kodak, Xerox and Pan Am.

But, to my mind, the worst examples are the individuals who regularly look back with regret at staying with a safe job while wishing that they had taking a risk on an entrepreneurial idea. How many individuals will say ‘I wish I had’ at some point in their lives?

We can blame society, the education system, financial concerns, our peer group or a multitude of other reasons. However, at the end of it the real reason is fear; not just of failure, but of not being in total control.

And that is the paradox of fear. People at all levels in society fail to act because fear makes them think that they will give up the power of control. However, by not acting power and control will ultimately be lost.

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