22 June 2010

The Fear Question

[NOTE: For the near future I'm aiming to post here once a week, on Tuesdays at 0700, in order to free up some time to write my next book.]

One of the questions that comes up a lot in my FIST presentations goes something like this: “Your ideas sound really different and counter-cultural. My organization simply won't / can't / doesn't reward this sort of thing. Although I agree with your recommendations, I might get criticized / fired / not promoted if I do it. So how can I do FIST in an environment that doesn’t encourage it?”

There are several variations on that question, but they all resolve around a single concept: fear. People are afraid to do something different, afraid to stand out, afraid of criticism, afraid of doing something that isn’t recognized & rewarded…

I’ve tried answering it several different ways, and I’m not quite sure I’ve ever answered it particularly well. My latest attempt goes something like this: “I’m not recommending this FIST approach because it’s easy or because I think it’ll get you promoted. It might even get you into trouble. But the impact on your career and promotability isn’t the point. If you just want to get promoted, then spend billions of dollars and manage a cast of thousands. Smile, nod and be as busy as you possibly can.As a general rule, that's what big organizations value and reward.

“On the other hand, if you want to help the warfighter and look after the interests of the taxpayer, do this FIST thing. Rapidly deliver affordable systems that are available when needed and effective when used. This approach might trigger the Corporate Immune Response… but I bet it won’t. I bet most of our negative fantasies about undesirable consequences won’t come to pass. But even if they do, there’s something profoundly cool about being punished for doing the right thing.

Bottom line: don't let fear be your primary motivator. Surely you can find a nobler purpose than maintaining your personal safety (and like I said, 99.9% of our negative fantasies wouldn't come true anyway).


Dick Field said...

Thanks for having the courage to have this as your presentation answer.

FIST doesn't exist to satisfy the "go along to get along" crowd. Neither did the founding fathers. Revolutions are about risk and reward.

I guess it comes down to what gives meaning to our existence and the willingness to act on that knowledge.

Paul said...

Awesome. Thanks for this, Dan.

I think the implementation comes down to leadership, specifically leadership by example. If you are courageous enough to try, and foster your team enough to succeed, others will follow.

dave davison said...

Dan I have been a fan since 2006 when I first read the Simplicity Cycle manifesto on Change This.

Thoughts Illustrated: The Simplicity Cycle - A manifesto

Your e-book on the same subject was not as good as what you published on Change This.

If you are writing a new book - can you tell us what it will be about and whether it could use the publishing platform of the iPad?

Dave Davison

The Dan Ward said...

Er, thanks Dave - glad you've enjoyed this stuff, sorry the Simplicity Cycle eBook didn't float your boat.

My new book is a children's novel - I haven't looked into publishing for the iPad yet, but I am looking into it (as well as the Kindle, etc).

I'll keep you posted right here on the blog!