As humans, we seek safety. That is part of what makes change, change-making and change leading so incredibly hard. Even when we know that we need to go in a different direction, we have a fight against ourselves on our hands.
Fear of being wrong
Fear of making a mistake
Fear of being rejected and cut off from other people that we need to be able to depend on.
We see this in our homes, when we need to confront a spouse or roommate and we get that knotty feeling in our stomach before we walk in. We see this in our practice of pulling several family members together to hold an intervention when someone has to be confronted about a destructive behavior.
It’s not weakness. It’s self-preservation as a physically weak and socially dependent species.
Too often, we tell people that we want them to take some risks, to work in a different way, to take initiative – and we’re doing that in the context of a culture, a community, often the very place, where people have told them to sit down and do what they’re told. For years.
Is it no wonder so few people rise to that challenge that we’ve issued?
They know it’s not safe. As much as they may want to, they know it’s not safe.
This may be part of why we struggle so much to get women, people of color and other underrepresented people engaged in start-ups and other areas of innovation. If you already feel that you face a higher level of risk, would it seem prudent to sign up for more?
Creating new impact, working in new ways, adapting to the demands of today’s and tomorrow’s economy, requires more than exhortations.
It requires creating the systems, the standards, and the culture that we all need to feel as safe as possible — to believe, foremost, that we will not be rejected or ostracized for risking to fail.