Picture this. I’m in a high-stakes meeting with major investors. The room is as silent as a library on a Sunday morning, and the tension? Thick enough to slice with a knife. With sweat forming rivulets down my back, I pitch an idea – groundbreaking, revolutionary, or so I thought. But the room, it stayed silent. Then, just as I’m ready to crawl under the boardroom table, an investor burst out laughing. No kidding, I wanted the earth to swallow me whole right then and there. Embarrassing? Hell yeah! But here’s the plot twist: that ‘foolish’ moment sparked a change – in me, and eventually in my entire company.

You see, fear – that gnawing feeling in your stomach when you’re about to step out of line, when you’re about to challenge the norm – can be a monstrous creativity-killer in business. That boardroom? It was petrified of innovation, clinging onto the comfortable norms like a safety blanket. But let me tell you, comfort zones are creativity’s worst enemy. But wait, what if we could kick this fear to the curb? Sounds like a dream, right?

But it’s not, it’s damn well possible. Overcoming fear, creating a culture of trust, and embracing openness isn’t some pipe dream. It’s a reality that can supercharge creativity in ways you wouldn’t believe. You ready for this ride? Buckle up because we’re about to dive headfirst into a world where fear takes a backseat and creativity takes the wheel.

Understanding Fear and Its Role in Business

When you hear the word ‘fear,’ what comes to mind? Spiders? Heights? Clowns? Well, in the business world, it’s a whole different ball game. Here, we’re not talking about the kind of fear that makes you want to hide under your bed. We’re talking about a more subtle, insidious form of fear – the fear of messing up, looking stupid, or being wrong. It’s the type of fear that makes you second-guess your every move, that holds you back from saying what’s on your mind, that stifles creativity like a fire extinguisher on a flame.

Now, you might be thinking, “But fear is a good thing, right? It keeps us safe, it stops us from doing dumb things.” Well, yes, and no. In certain situations, fear can be a lifesaver. But when it comes to creativity and innovation, it’s about as helpful as a chocolate teapot. Because you see, creativity thrives on risk, on the unknown, on the ‘what if?’ And fear? Fear is the enemy of ‘what if’.

Imagine you’re standing at the edge of a cliff. Below, there’s an expanse of crystal-clear water. You know that jumping could be the thrill of a lifetime. But fear? Fear whispers in your ear, “What if you hit a rock? What if you drown?” So, instead of experiencing the exhilarating leap and the joy of the plunge, you step back from the edge. That’s what fear does to creativity in business. It makes you step back from the edge. It stops you from taking the leap that could lead to something incredible.

But here’s a twist for you: what if we stopped seeing fear as the villain? What if, instead of letting fear control us, we took control of it? Sounds crazy, huh? But stick with me here. What if we could harness that fear, use it to our advantage? Because the thing about fear is, it’s not going anywhere. It’s part of the human condition, a survival instinct hardwired into our brains. But if we can understand it, if we can dissect it and understand its role in our business decisions, then we can start to control it, to use it as a tool rather than a roadblock.

But how do we do that? How do we take something as intangible, as powerful as fear, and turn it into a tool for creativity and innovation? Well, it starts with trust.

Building a Culture of Trust

Trust. It’s a small word with a big impact. In fact, I’d argue that it’s one of the most important aspects of any successful business. And yet, it’s often overlooked, pushed aside in the rush for profits and progress. But without trust, a team is like a car without an engine. It might look good on the outside, but it’s not going anywhere.

When people trust each other, magic happens. Ideas flow freely, creativity thrives, and innovation becomes the norm, not the exception. But building that trust? It’s easier said than done.

Creating a culture of trust starts with honesty. I’m talking brutal, no-holds-barred honesty. It’s about having the guts to say, “I don’t know,” or “I messed up,” or even, “I’m scared.” It’s about having the courage to voice your fears, to admit your weaknesses. It’s about being real, being human. Because when we show our true selves, when we admit that we don’t have all the answers, we make it safe for others to do the same. We create a space where people can be vulnerable, where they can take risks and make mistakes without fear of judgment or retribution.

And when people feel safe, they start to trust. They start to let down their guard, to open up and share their ideas, no matter how crazy or out-there they might seem. And that’s when the magic happens.

But trust isn’t just about honesty. It’s also about reliability, about following through on your promises. When you say you’ll do something, do it. When you make a commitment, stick to it. Show your team that they can depend on you, that you’re someone who walks the talk.

And what happens when trust is absent? Well, let’s just say it’s not pretty. Without trust, teams become toxic. People start to hide their mistakes, to cover their tracks. Creativity grinds to a halt, replaced by fear and uncertainty. Innovation? Forget about it.

Don’t believe me? Let’s look at some examples. Take any successful business, any company known for its creativity and innovation. What do they all have in common? You guessed it – trust. Whether it’s Google with its famous ‘20% time’ policy (allowing employees to spend 20% of their time working on personal projects), or Pixar with its ‘Braintrust’ meetings (where ideas are shared and critiqued without hierarchy), these companies understand the value of trust. They understand that for creativity to flourish, people need to feel safe, to trust in their team and in their leaders.

In the end, building a culture of trust is about creating a space where people can be themselves, where they can take risks and make mistakes without fear. It’s about fostering a sense of safety and belonging, a sense of ‘we’re in this together.’ And when we achieve that, we unlock the door to limitless creativity and innovation.

Encouraging Openness: Making Workspaces Safe for Wild Ideas

Openness. It’s the secret sauce, the magic ingredient that can transform a ho-hum team into a veritable idea-generating machine. But what exactly do we mean when we talk about ‘openness’ in a team context?

Well, for starters, it’s about having open conversations. This means creating an environment where everyone feels comfortable sharing their ideas and opinions, no matter how unconventional or ‘out there’ they might seem. It’s about encouraging dialogue and debate, fostering a culture where diversity of thought is not just tolerated, but actively sought after.

But it doesn’t stop there. Openness also means having an open mind. It’s about being willing to consider new ideas and perspectives, to challenge your own preconceptions and biases. It’s about staying curious, about always being ready to learn and grow.

Finally, openness is about having open doors – both literally and metaphorically. This means encouraging transparency and accessibility, fostering an environment where everyone – from the CEO to the intern – is approachable and available for discussion.

So, how do you promote openness in your team? Well, it’s not about grand gestures or lofty proclamations. Instead, it’s about the little things. It’s about actively seeking out diverse perspectives and ideas. It’s about setting aside time for brainstorming and blue-sky thinking. It’s about being transparent about decisions and processes, about admitting when you don’t know the answer.

And the impact of an ‘open’ culture on creativity and innovation? It’s like night and day. In an open culture, ideas flow freely, creativity thrives, and innovation is the norm rather than the exception. People are more willing to take risks and explore new ideas because they know their contributions will be valued and respected.

Now, let’s contrast that with a ‘closed’ culture. In a closed culture, communication is one-way, ideas are shot down, and conformity is the order of the day. People are scared to speak up, to share their ideas, because they fear being ridiculed or ignored. Creativity withers, innovation dies, and the team stagnates. It’s a dismal picture, isn’t it?

At the end of the day, the choice is clear. If you want your team to be a hotbed of creativity and innovation, you need to foster a culture of openness. You need to encourage open conversations, promote open minds, and ensure open doors. Because when people feel safe to share their wildest ideas, when they feel heard and respected, that’s when you’ll see the true power of your team unleashed.

Facing the Fear: Tactics for Overcoming the Fear of Messing Up

Alright, let’s roll up our sleeves and dive into the nitty-gritty – how do we actually face our fear? How do we deal with this beast that’s been hindering our creativity and slowing our progress?

First, we need to debunk a major misconception. Somewhere along the way, we’ve all picked up this idea that it’s shameful to admit we’re afraid. Like if we admit we’re scared, we’re admitting we’re weak. But guess what? That’s a load of bull. We’re all human and fear is a universal human experience. It’s not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of being alive.

So, step one in overcoming fear is simply acknowledging it. Admitting, ‘Yes, I’m scared. Yes, this is hard.’ There’s power in that admission, because it allows us to start addressing our fears head-on.

Next, we need to share our fears, especially in a team setting. This might sound counterintuitive. After all, we’re often told to put on a brave face, to hide our fears and insecurities. But when we share our fears with our team, we’re not just unburdening ourselves. We’re also giving others permission to do the same.

So, how do you do this? How do you create a space where it’s safe for everyone to voice their fears? One way is by leading by example. When you, as a leader, openly discuss your own fears and vulnerabilities, it signals to your team that it’s okay to do the same.

Another strategy is to explicitly encourage open dialogue about fear. This might involve setting aside time in team meetings for people to share their fears, or it could involve more informal conversations on a one-to-one basis.

Finally, we can take practical steps to manage our fears. This might involve breaking down large, intimidating tasks into smaller, more manageable chunks. Or it could involve seeking support and guidance from mentors or colleagues.

The point is, when we face our fears head-on, when we share them and tackle them, something amazing happens. Our fears start to lose their power over us. They become less intimidating, less paralyzing. And when that happens, creativity can flourish.

Of course, all of this is easier said than done. But trust me, it’s possible. I’ve seen teams transform once they’ve learned to face their fears. They become more creative, more innovative, and ultimately, more successful.

Embracing Failure: Turning Fear into Fuel

Alright, let’s get real here. Failure sucks. It stings, burns, and sometimes leaves a nasty bruise. But here’s the hard truth – failure is an essential part of creativity and innovation. It’s not a dead-end, it’s a stepping stone to success. It’s a chance to learn, grow, and, most importantly, do better next time.

So, how do we transform fear into a fuel for creativity? Well, it starts by debunking that ol’ myth that failure is a dead-end. I can’t stress this enough – it’s just not true. Failure isn’t a full stop, it’s a comma in the long sentence of your creative journey.

It’s about changing our perspective on failure. Instead of seeing it as a setback, we should see it as a learning opportunity. When we fail, we gain invaluable insights that can guide our future decisions and actions. It’s like getting a sneak peek at the exam paper before you sit down to take the test.

And trust me, some of the greatest success stories were built on the back of failure. Steve Jobs was fired from Apple before he came back to revolutionize the tech industry. Colonel Sanders was rejected 1,009 times before he finally sold his first Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise. J.K. Rowling was turned down by twelve publishers before someone finally saw the potential in Harry Potter.

Now, embracing failure doesn’t mean deliberately messing up or shirking responsibility. It’s not about being careless or reckless. What it does mean is accepting that failure is a natural part of the creative process, and using it as a stepping stone to greater success.

How do we create a culture that embraces failure? Well, it starts with leadership. As leaders, we need to model the right attitude towards failure. We need to show our team that it’s okay to take risks, make mistakes, and learn from them. We also need to provide constructive feedback and support when failure happens.

We can also celebrate failures, as odd as that may sound. Some companies, like Google and Coca-Cola, have rituals or awards for “best failure.” These aren’t about glorifying failure for failure’s sake, but about celebrating the learning and innovation that comes from failure.

So, to sum up, fear can be turned into fuel by embracing failure. It’s not an easy journey, but it’s one that can lead to unprecedented creativity and success.


Well, we’ve covered a lot of ground, haven’t we? Fear, trust, openness, failure – it’s been a wild ride, but we’re nearing the end of the line. And if you’ve been hanging on, I think we’ve come to a pretty powerful conclusion. Overcoming fear leads to creativity, trust, openness, and success.

Remember that first meeting I told you about? The one where I made a fool of myself? I stood there, shaking in my boots, and shared my mad idea. I was afraid, no doubt about it, but you know what? That fear didn’t kill me. It didn’t kill my creativity. Instead, it sparked a change – a change that led to trust, to openness, to a culture where creativity could flourish.

That’s what we’re aiming for here. A workplace where fear takes a backseat, and creativity takes the wheel. A place where trust isn’t just a buzzword, but a lived reality. A place where we’re not just open to wild ideas, but we actively encourage them.

And we’re not just talking about creating a culture of trust and openness. We’re also talking about facing our fears head-on and using them as stepping stones to success. We’re talking about embracing failure, not as a dead-end, but as a valuable learning opportunity.

So, let’s kick fear to the curb. Let’s stop letting it hold us back. Let’s embrace the mess, the chaos, the failure, and let’s use it all to fuel our creativity.

And remember, fear is scary, but we are stronger. We can do this. We can kick fear’s ass and let our creativity run wild.

About the Author: Geoffrey Byers
Geoffrey is one of the world's foremost Designers. He is also a Serial Entrepreneur, Author, Speaker, and Mad Scientist. Hypothesis-Driven experimentation is his love language.