Monday, November 26, 2012

Overcoming fear and quieting the Lizard Brain

It seems to me that the two biggest fears in the business world are of failure and embarrassment. All other fears are derived from these two big monsters.

I recently listened to the HBR IdeaCast interview with Tom and David Kelley, The Four Fears Blocking You from Great Ideas.

Their message is for leaders to unlock the creative capability that exists in many of their people by countering the obstacles to creativity:
  • Fear of the messy unknown
  • Fear of being judged
  • Fear of the first step
  • Fear of losing control
The Kelley's also wrote the blog Fighting the Fears the Block Creativity and the HBR article Reclaim Your Creative Confidence, and David Kelley gave a talk at TED2012, How to Build your Creative Confidence.

Quieting the lizard brain

I see a connection with Seth Godin's writing about Quieting the lizard brain. Seth describes the lizard brain as the resistance that keeps us from doing the things that make you successful.

"The lizard brain is the reason you're afraid, the reason you don't do all the art you can, the reason you don't ship when you can. The lizard brain is the source of the resistance." 
― Seth Godin, Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?
Like the Kelley's, he says that we don't need to be more creative. All of us are too creative. What we need is a quieter lizard brain.

What can leaders do to quiet the lizard brain? 

The Kelley's suggest that we should take small steps to build confidence and overcome fear. Seth Godin says you should only start things that are worth finishing, be committed to finishing whatever we start, and to thrash out the lizard brain resistance in the beginning.

I can think of a few effective approaches that leaders can promote to their teams to counter fear and the lizard brain:
  • Focus your energy on important work. If it isn't a priority, then don't waste your time on it.
  • Don't be afraid of rework. Just get started once you decide to do something.
  • Don't wait for the perfect plan. You will learn along the way. Nobody has omniscience.
  • Fail small and often. You can learn from small failures without getting hurt.
  • Try ideas out and see where they take you. Dip your toes in the water before jumping in.

What other ways can we counteract the resistance from the lizard brain?