Culture of Fear is Killing Creativity

In my recent poll, “Leadership / My Boss” has been the front-runner as the biggest threat to creativity and innovation.

According to this 2010 article in Fast Company, creativity rates in America have been dropping since the 90s. If we have stayed on this trajectory, we are now over 30 years into this trend.

What we need now more than ever, though, is BIG IDEAS and Innovation and new approaches versus regurgitating the same old ideas, hoping that it’ll end in new and better results.

The truth is that the biggest threat to creativity and innovation is FEAR.

In the last few years, clients and friends in the industry all talk about the increased pressure and a fear-based culture that erodes creativity and innovation. This happens in many of the more established brands, whereas younger, smaller brands that are gaining traction are able to cultivate an environment of experimentation and collaboration.

In a fear-based culture, we won’t express new ideas, take risks, or challenge the status quo because experimentation is discouraged since it doesn’t yield predictable results and is entirely reliant on human intuition, experience, and instinct.

Only the most resilient will want to take that risk.

As much as we believe we are evolved beings, fear is putting us straight into primal survival mode: Fear of Failure, Fear of Criticism, Fear of Rejection.

We become hyper-focused, ego-centric, and materialistic. In the workplace, this out pictures as:

  • Competition over Collaboration
  • Need for Recognition
  • Resistance to Change
  • Knowledge Hoarding
  • Avoiding Responsibility & Blame Culture
  • Hyper Controlling
  • Short-term focus without the ability to make long-term plans.

It is hard to step out of a fear-based culture when we are already swimming in a collective fear soup fueled by breaking news flashes, talks of impending recessions, wars, polarization, politics, gun violence, climate change, natural disasters, and conflict in general.

In our bodies and our psyche, it activates the primal fear of not being good enough, not being worthy, and not being lovable.

While it is the responsibility of leadership to buffer fear and cultivate an environment that allows for creativity and innovation, it doesn’t let us individuals off the hook.

One of the most common objections I hear is that we believe that the company culture has to change before we are able to change.

We believe that once “something out there” changes, then things will change for us.

As a matter of fact, this could not be further from the truth.

Sustainable change is an inside job.

But how can we cultivate a sense of safety and security when we are swimming in a fear soup?

Here are a some suggestions:

  • avoid company in your private life that will re-energize and affirm the fear narrative.
  • Tune out triggering content like news and social media.
  • Understand your numbing mechanisms, scrolling and comparing yourself on social media (yes, including LinkedIn), gaming, for example and seek out experiences that are more nurturing for you.
  • Engage in practices like Breathwork, meditation, journaling, singing, or take a cold plunge, make art, take a hike …

As designers and creators, it is our responsibility to create a sense of safety in the body so that we can be and stay creative and innovative.

It makes you recession-proof, resilient, unique, and magnetic beyond your experience and talent.

If you would like to explore the best way for you to get out of fear and back to safety, creativity, and innovation so you can make the impact you are here to make, schedule your free Impact Accelerator Consult.

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