5 Reasons Fear is the Enemy of Innovation

In my most recent episode (watch the video above) I went Behind the Brand with Global CEO and president of Epson, Minoru Usui to find out the secret formula to their recent breakthrough success with the game-changing EcoTank printer technology.

Here are 5 important lessons any business professional could benefit from learning:

1. Fear kills creativity

Usui told me that Epson was lured into the trap of competing with the F&B's of rivals HP and Canon and took their eye off the customer. This was a huge mistake and stiffled any creativity. They let fear of the competition and what the retailer might say dictate how they developed new products. Their new approach is totally focused on the customer and has resulted in a major innovation with EcoTank.

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2. Fear might cause you to get into a race to the bottom

Products with similar features and benefits start to look exactly the same to consumers. Some brands are afraid that they might get lost in the shuffle, ignore innovation and resort to competing on price. Unless you're Walmart with massive economies of scale, don't get into a race to the bottom because you might win.

3. FOMO is not a strategy

FOMO = Fear of missing out. I see a lot of brands jump on the social media bandwagon for no good reason other than FOMO. Are your customers on Twitter? If not, don't waste time there. Are you spending a large piece of your marketing budget on a booth space at that trade show just because everyone else in the industry is there? Try something innovative and unconventional that would help you stand out or give you a better ROI. Innovative ideas or tactics can also be your differentiation.

4. Great leaders never lead by using fear tactics

Dictators in foriegn countries (and maybe at your company) use fear tactics to motivate people. That's because fear keeps people divided. Leading with fear kills any chance for innovation because you're raising an army of yes-men. If the people (ever) unite, the fear-mongering boss can be defeated and replaced. Trust your team and empower them with the ability to make important decisions. Innovation thrives when there is trust and autonomy. Lead by example and this includes giving people permission to experiment with things that might not work in the spirit of discovery.

5. Fear doesn't forgive mistakes

Tell me if you have you ever said this: "Failure is not an option." The fact is that failure and success usually live together in world where someone is trying something new. If you're not failing you're probably not innovating. If you're afraid to make mistakes you're stuck paralized in planning or analysis, always aiming to make it perfect before you fire.

Epson's Usui is an engineer. Engineers like to tinker and experienment. Think of Thomas Edison...they are comfortable with failure or eliminating possible options and don't give up. Real innovators realize you can't have success without failure. When mistakes are made it's critical to learn from them and move forward. Don't let the fear of imperfection kill innovation.

What did I leave out? Make sure to the watch the entire video for more business lessons and leave me a comment below. You can also tweet me @BryanElliott and I promise to reply! For the entire library of Behind the Brand click here.