Fear creates uncertainty. Uncertainty creates a sense of dis-equilibrium within us that we try to correct, so we can feel balanced and in equilibrium again.
Let’s take an example from marketing to explore how this occurs. You come up with a new idea, but it hasn’t been pitched before. You are fearful, the idea is too innovative, too “out there” and that it may be misinterpreted by people and cause offence. This fear creates uncertainty about whether to go ahead with the concept or not. The most frequent way of dealing with this uncertainty, is to play it safe. We cull the idea, or we conform it to current marketing messages, that we consider more acceptable. This way, we manage our sense of dis-equilibrium and come back to a sense of at least being comfortable with the message, even if we are disappointed not to have pitched our first idea.
But, what if, instead of culling or cutting your idea to conform to current market or communication practices, you go to market with it and it opens a new perspective. What if, your idea starts a new dialogue? What would it take for this to happen?
It takes consideration and analysis. We need to apply analytical thinking and analysis to our “good idea”. For example, does our idea provide a different valid perspective? What information do we have, or can we obtain to verify the validity of this perspective? Communicating a new perspective that hasn’t been pitched before and may offend some groups requires solid supporting information behind it. Saying, “it seemed like a good idea at the time” does not generate confidence in the message you are trying to get across.
We often have an emotional attachment to our “good ideas” which is why we need to critically analyse them. Our emotional attachment often blinds us to flaws or weakness in the message we are attempting to get across. We need to be our own worst critic because once we go to market, we will experience the criticism of the market.
If after considering our idea or concept and we still believe there is merit in the message, then we exercise courage in getting the message out to the public. The best definition I have heard of courage is to “feel the fear and do it anyway”. Courage is not the absence of fear, neither is courage over-riding the fear. That is recklessness. True courage is to feel the fear of expressing a new idea, to believe in it and to express it. This is why we need to have considered and analysed our idea. We must believe in it, to have the courage to feel the fear and go through with it.
The other aspect of courage is knowing the level of risk you are prepared to take. There is a difference between recklessness and considered risk taking. Recklessness is as indicated, over-riding the fear, denying it and acting, often with severe consequences. Considered risk taking, is weighing up the fear and the possible consequences before acting and putting in place steps to mitigate these consequences.
One of the certain consequences of putting forward new ideas or perspectives that cannot be mitigated against is the offence it will create. New ideas, new perspectives are bound to offend some people. Why? Because new ideas and new perspectives challenge the status quo of what people accept as correct, acceptable, or true.
As said at the beginning this challenge creates a sense of dis-equilibrium for people. Generally, people will react in one of three ways. Some will consider the new perspective and to a lesser or greater extent consider and incorporate it into their thinking. Others will ignore it and see it as having no relevance to them. The third group are those who will be offended by the new perspective. Those who are offended are often the most vocal in their opposition to the idea we are putting forward.
This is where our consideration and analytical thought is important, because if we are convinced our idea is valid and worthy of consideration, then we need to stand our ground despite the vocal opposition. Remember, there have been many ideas throughout history which were considered offensive when they were first suggested but which have subsequently proven to be accurate and true.
To think clearly, to think creatively, to generate ideas from new perspectives will most certainly cause opposition and offence. Yet, these ideas, this creativity we have, may still be well worth the offence it is generating if it provides new insights, new depths of meaning and understanding.
The question is whether we allow ourselves to be cowered in the caboose of conformity or drive the engine of new perspectives and ideas.