Whether in the business world or in writing fiction, fear of the unknown is pervasive. Fear can be applied to the context of a story – as in “don’t enter that room, the killer is hiding in there!” – or it can be the fear or taking risk, as I recently wrote about in the blog post, “Going There.” Today, I have decided to switch away from the subject of writing; rather, my focus is on business driven by fear.
Fear is counter-productive in business; it prevents an organization from finding new solutions. It hinders advancement, and it creates a culture of skepticism and cynicism when it becomes widespread. In my career of corporate communication, I have often encountered this debilitating emotion and its power to halt productivity and impede creativity. For example, in the case of bringing social media into a business, a common response has been, “if we cannot control it, we cannot be a part of it.” Never mind the fact that the discussion of the business by its customers and haters will occur with or without the company’s involvement. The epitome of having no control is when the company’s voice is absent from the conversation.
I have witnessed fear of changing a business model to compete with a larger competitor sink a small business. “It’s not who we are,” I would hear, or, “Our regulars will keep shopping here.” That proved not to be the case. A small risk can go a long way, exemplified by those few small businesses that survived the onslaught of the big box store chains when they moved into my old town. As for the business I was acquainted with, it died a slow and painful death as it resisted trying new techniques in the name of fear. It missed an opportunity to remain competitive by defining a niche as the other surviving shops did.
It’s an unfortunate reality – so many great opportunities in collaboration and innovation are missed by businesses that abide by the fear of the unknown. Optimism, research, and strategic planning will combat this, however. It takes dedication and perseverance to not back down from what you believe is the right path forward. It takes leadership. Fear can be beat, and it requires hard work. In the grand scheme, the fearless will not only thrive, they will win.
When you have an idea to improve something – your business, you creative endeavor, or your life – don’t let fear be a deciding factor. Do it!