Breaching the Wall of Denial

To do innovation, you’ve got to be all in, both physically and mentally.  And to be all in, you’ve got to bust through one of the most powerful forces on the planet – denial.

Denial exists because seeing things as they are is scary. Denial prevents you from seeing problems so you can protect yourself from things that are scary. But the dark consequence of its protection is you block yourself from doing new things, from doing innovation.  Because you deny the truth of how things are, you don’t acknowledge problems; and because you don’t admit there’s a problem, there’s no forcing function for doing the difficult work of innovation.

Problems threaten, but problems have power.  Effectively harnessed, problems can be powerful enough to bust through denial.  But before you can grab them by the mane, you have to be emotionally strong enough to see them.  You have to be ready to see them; you have to be in the right mindset to see them; and because your organization will try to tear you down when you point to a big problem, you have to have a high self worth to stand tall.

Starting an innovation project is the toughest part and most important part.  Starting is the most important because 100% of all innovations projects that don’t start, fail. Those aren’t good odds.  And because starting is so emotionally difficult, people with high self worth are vital.  Plain and simple: they’re strong enough to start.

Denial helps you stay in your comfort zone, but that’s precisely where you don’t want to be.  To change and grow you’ve got to breach the wall of denial, and climb out of your comfort zone.

2 Responses to “Breaching the Wall of Denial”

  • Miles:

    I guess some would say that it’s easier to live with the fear you know than the fear you don’t know but expect to encounter through change.

    You’ve certainly made the strong case that we should try to understand our workday psychology as vigorously as we pursue our workplace knowledge of, say, material “behavior.”

    Thank you for another wonderful essay, Mike.

  • Mike – interesting insight – “Fear is the greatest motivator”, and if you’re in denial, you’re avoiding the things you fear the most (ie, the project you’re working on has significant problems). Fear of failure can also drive innovation, and some people are wired such that they are more creative under pressure. Embrace your fear, learn to recognize it as a warning bell that you may need to get out of denial mode and start innovating!

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Mike Shipulski Mike Shipulski
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