As a follow-up to my last newsletter on innovation, this time, I originally wanted to say something about measurement criteria for innovation activities, but I feel this topic is less of a summer issue. Instead, while I was on my way back from vacation, I came across the subjects of confidence and courage. Thanks to my relaxed summer mood, these terms immediately resonated with myself. Three quotes for thought:
Confidence means to have faith that something can be done.
“Faith means to no longer be afraid of your fears.” (Ernst Ferstl, Austrian author)
Courage does not mean to have no fear, but not to be hamstrung by it.
As you can see, the terms confidence, faith, courage and fear are very closely connected and therefore often go together. And we are exposed to these terms in any situation of our life and across all age groups: as children, as parents, as friends, as professionals, as company managers,...
In fact, our general predisposition whether we are confident or afraid is embedded in our genes and the result of our childhood experience. Now one would be tempted to lean back and say: I am what I am and there is nothing I can do about it – even though I am a rather pessimistic person. But it is not that easy, because we have the chance to change our mind throughout our entire life. This is called neuroplasticity. Neurons or nerve cells may change and can establish whole new networks. Accordingly, due to the fact how and what we think, we ourselves are able to induce this change. Psychologist Donald O. Hepp is said to have discovered synaptic plasticity. Later research has provided an ever increasing number of insights into the brain’s malleability, even well into adulthood.
So when we manage to remain confident and we thus do not let us become hamstrung by our fear, we will get to what is called ‘courage’. The definition of the psychologists Shane J. Lopez and Cynthia L.S. Pury is as follows:
“Courage is acting toward a morally worthy goal, despite risk, fear and uncertainty.”
- Whistleblowers, for example, are exposed to the risk to be discriminated against by their employers or supervisors, but they pursue the higher purpose of removing any deficiencies within the company before such company suffers from legal consequences or damages to its reputation. Researchers such as Jonas Heese (faculty member of Harvard Business School) have proven that companies obtain a great benefit from having in place well-established reporting processes as regards internal deficiencies.
- Company founders such as Florian Gschwandtner of Runtastic (fitness app) quit their well-paid jobs in order to be able to pursue their business ideas without a safety net. Gschwandtner says that his car broke down during the start-up period. As he had no money to buy a new one he decided to use the bike. When he had a bike crash on a snowy road at minus 10 degrees, he briefly was regretting his decision to have left his comfort zone of being a full-time employee, including a company car. Back at work, though, building his company Runtastic, his doubts quickly disappeared.
- People who take a stand, like Greta Thunberg, leave a deep impression on me – as well as her parents who support her. She has demonstrated courage by embarking on an unusual path. She has withstood any hostilities because she is completely driven by her morally worthy goal. Her request as regards the climate crisis was basically that what we later did during the corona crisis – listening to what scientists have to say.
The morally worthy goal pursued by virologist Christian Drosten is to provide information and to present the latest scientific insights for citizens in an understandable manner. He has also been attacked in the pursuit of his goal, but again, this has not kept him from continuing to present scientific insights regarding the corona virus in a manner that is easy to digest for the normal citizen.
I could extend this list of popular, courageous people at will. However, I think it is equally important to emphasize that everyone of us has courage: anyone who decides to quit his or her current job has it because sailing into the unknown is courageous. Parents who stand by their children during the most severe crises are courageous. People who do not tolerate any form of discrimination among friends or in the sports club – by raising their voice and being determined to fight against discrimination – are courageous. This list could also be expanded in detail.
Conclusion: Courage is rewarding: both personally and, depending on where it is applied, also for the company you are working for, or even for the community as a whole. Courage can shape the future!
This text first appeared in my newsletter 'Innovation on Wednesday'. It is published every other Wednesday. For subscription click here