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Bravery + Strategy = Innovation (part 2)

I’ve received an enormous amount of feedback to my post this weekend that innovation is what happens when you combine bravery and strategy.

Particularly the bravery part.

We talk about this a lot with clients. And we’ve become more sensitive to the fact that many times the real reason a business is struggling is because the owners have lost confidence, and so are clinging to what they know.

We learned when building our own business that it’s easy to be brave when things are going well. But much, much harder when your backs are to the wall. Pressure of every kind makes acting instinctively fraught with anxiety and restricted by second guessing.

This year I’ve started to work with a remarkable woman who specializes in helping people find their voice.  Jennifer Hamady is a singing coach, but her expertise extends far beyond the auditory manifestation of notes and lyrics. Her genius lies in helping people understand how to release their talent. To coin Sir Ken Robinson’s definition, she helps people find their Element.

There is greatness in all of us. And if for now that seems unlikely, history suggests that those who are willing to look for it, will find it.

Reader Comments (4)

It strikes me that the bravery you describe requires three things above all others: Willingness to accept fear, willingness to confront fear - often deeply-rooted; and the courage to act in a way that challenges that fear. Even in the complete absence of certainty as to what the outcome of that action may be.

Contrast that with what we find so often instead: Rather than strategy + bravery, strategy + bravado. And the primary role of bravado is to avoid accepting, confronting or dealing with fear.

Where are the truly courageous conversations? Where will we abandon the 'folie a deux' that arises when the fearful collude with the false promises of bravado, to co-create real possibility and sustainable improvement? Surely that is where the future lies.

March 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGBHKG

A couple of quick thoughts on the very interesting issue of bravery (courage) vs bravado...

Can we posit that courage is not just a noun (an object & passive) but is primarily a verb (action!). In other words, true courage/bravery requires action, otherwise it is just bravado (thanks GBHKG).

Another observation is that courage is not just the application of sufficient willpower to overcome or confront fear. As the elusive Ambrose Redmoon noted, courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important that fear. The 'verbing' of courage starts with a decision and resolve that pre-dates action.

What's the priority, what's important? This is the issue that deserves thought since it is at the heart of strategy - hand in hand with courage.

April 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJVCSYD

This blog has really got me thinking. In particular, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the issue of risk and uncertainty in strategy-making, and how these relate to courage.

In particular, it seems that lots of folks confuse the two - risk and uncertainty. In the current environment, there is a lot of both, but I think we get them confused.

In my industry – financial services – risks are normally identified, quantified and reduced to a formula of some sort. Once this has been done, the formula is then plugged into ‘risk control framework’, the aim of which is to mitigate risks. This usually results in a process-oriented checklist of controls, restrictions, and decision trees that seek a specific outcome.

The interesting thing about this process is that, once a plan for mitigating risk is implemented, it tends to stay pretty static, only changes at the periphery - and often becomes an end itself (instead of a means to an end). It’s only in very extraordinary times that our approach to managing risk is changed in a fundamental way.

Uncertainty appears to be quite different from risk. While you can quantify risk, I find it very difficult to put my finger on specific uncertainties. Not to be too Rumsfeldian about it, but we just don’t know what we don't know - or how things will turn out in the future.

But that’s why it may be such an important element of our pre-strategy.

To use my 7 year olds words, the 'bestest, realest' opportunities often lie in the no-man's land of uncertainty where we just don’t know what will happen. Provided, that is, we retain enough strategic flexibility to act quickly when the opportunity presents itself. Being too formalistic in managing uncertainty (as opposed to risk) may end up being a very real (but future) strategic danger.

Unfortunately, making rules is easier than thinking.

We always want the easy way out.

Strangely, this subject led me to the question of culture and self-knowledge – if we aren’t self-aware (as individuals and collectively), it is pretty darn hard to retain the strategic flexibility needed to jump on the opportunities that are thrown up by an uncertain – and constantly unfolding – future.

How does this relate to this blog? Maybe not at all, but it seems to me that both a willingness to embrace uncertainty and the seek self knowledge one needs more than a little courage.

May 4, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJVCSYD

I suspect the difference between risk and uncertainty may indeed vary by industry or perspective, and to the extent one can formulate a prospective outcome based on pre-defined criteria, that definition feels familiar as 'risk'.

The most meaningful possibilities occur, I agree, when we play in that grey area that we can't formulate.

Doing that requires self-awareness and bravery. Neither come easily in today's business world. But they are there. And once we know what we're looking for, it is suddenly conceivable that we can find them.

May 5, 2009 | Registered CommenterCharles Day
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