Planners: Is fear stifling your career?

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Business consultants Tom and David Kelley claim that business entrepreneurs are allowing four basic fears to stifle their creativity. They also offer ways to get your creative juices flowing again….

In an interview on the Harvard Business Review Blog Network, authors Tom and David Kelley, leaders of the business consulting firm IDEO, discussed four fears blocking entrepreneurs from proposing and executing innovative ideas. These fears are:

Fear of the messy unknown

“If you stay at your desk all day, everything comes pre-packaged to you, it's nice and safe and comfortable,” Tom Kelley says on HBR Blog Network. “And so there's this fear of getting out and of making firsthand observations and going to places where people don't know you.

“And the data is always messier. Reality is always messier than the pre-packaged data that comes to your desk.”

Fear of being judged

“When we're little kids, we just say what we think and we're willing to take risks,” Tom Kelley said. “But as you get older, even when you get to be a teenager, you're already worried that everybody's going to judge you. They're going to make fun of you if you don't say exactly the right thing. And so that fear drives people to just remain silent or not take risks and not take the kind of creative leaps that you need to take.”

Fear of taking the first step

“For the writer, it's the blank page,” said Tom Kelley. “For the teacher, it's like the first day of school.

“That is really the hardest of the steps. Once you start, you have momentum. But just getting started, it is so much easier to hang back and not take that first step.”

Fear of letting go of control

This is “where people think they have to control every aspect of something, that they want to do it all themselves,” Tom Kelley said. “But sometimes if you want to make a change, in order to let go, you've got to let other people add their value and collaborate in a way that you're not really controlling it all.”

How do entrepreneurs overcome these fears? It isn’t as easy as just “getting over it,” said David Kelley.

“The way we see that done is we take people through a process of small successes, one success after another,” David Kelley said. “We call this creative confidence…

“Once you start having some successes, then it makes it real easy for you to keep going.”

David Kelley cited the example of Doug Dietz, a design engineer at GE who had worked on MRI machines. Dietz noticed children were having trouble with the big machine, so he started designing ways for the machine to be more enjoyable. For example, he designed one that looked like a pirate ship, so it looked more playful.

“In the end, his way of looking at things really resonated and the whole company turned on a dime,” David Kelley said. “He built these little quick prototypes and the company saw them, and the kids reacted to them, and the hospital reacted to it. And pretty soon it was a mainstream idea now."