Seth Godin calls it the “lizard brain.” It’s that voice inside that rises up and protests doing anything different. The one that feels threatened by a new direction or new idea. It’s the one that defends the status quo. Often, it employs the slippery slope argument to protect its position. The argument that says if we make this change or take this chance it is only a matter of time before the sky falls and civilization as we know it comes crashing down. OK, that might be a bit extreme, but I have heard some put that kind of fear into their arguments.
While using fear can be an effective tactic for debate or to “win the day,” it is dangerous.
Fear keeps us from being able to properly discuss the issue at hand because it causes us to bring up other things to help us pass along that fear to others. Fear likes company. It hates being alone. It’s fear that causes companies and organizations to take 20 years to change. In the world and time we live in today, that is too long. We don’t often have the luxury of that kind of time to wait for everyone to get over the fear and catch up.
The ironic truth is that fear is the real slippery slope. When fear directs the decisions, the worst case scenario becomes a self-fulfilling reality. When the lizard brain wins the people and organization loses. Fear might allow for a seeming short-term victory, but it leads to long-term failure.
Yes, we must look ahead, calculate risks, and use wisdom and experience. But, we must not make “wisdom” the scapegoat of fear. Change is natural and necessary. Progress demands it. Growth requires it. There is always a better way to do something, a more effective tactic, a different perspective. When fear rules, these are silenced and ignored. Eventually, when fear rules the organization becomes irrelevant and obsolete.
Would love to hear your thoughts or even stories of when you have seen fear hinder an organization…