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The Psychology of Fear in
Organizations
How can we harness fear to fuel
innovation?
Fear, Anger and Frustration Why talk about fear?
• Fear is the elephant in the room. In this time
of rapid change, austeri...
Fear, Anger and Frustration Fear within organizations
• Frustration
• Powerlessness
• Lack of control
• The frenetic pace ...
Fear, Anger and Frustration
FEAR BREEDS A NEED FOR
CONTROL
-Hierarchical control
- Target culture
- Withdrawal/’working to...
Fear, Anger and Frustration
“Many companies are held in an
invisible prison. Red tape, rigid
administration, procedures an...
• Target culture – increased performance
monitoring, target setting for individuals,
departments and boards that are
incre...
Innovation rarely thrives in this
environment
What is the alternative to managing by fear
and control?
Fear, Anger and FrustrationTraditional ways of controlling
organizations
hierarchy, protocols, measurement
• Traditionally...
The hive is a network of (more or less) shared values, practices and
norms that we call organizational culture. The organi...
• Use the knowledge we already have about
how human beings function effectively
• Research indicates that trust in
organiz...
Building control through trust
Relationship, egalitarianism, improvisation, hive culture
Fostering the Hive Mind in
organizations
• Strengthening the Hive to improve
productivity
• Foster organizational cultures...
Command & Control Paradigm Emergent or Hive Paradigm
Keep people in ‘silos’ Build connectivity
Ensure everyone ‘salutes th...
• Changing the nature of conversations in organizations can be the most
powerful way to bring about an innovative mind-set...
• Innovation is fuelled by passion
• Creative discipline
• Diversity: equal... but different
• ‘Fear’ is not a valid reaso...
• Innovation doesn’t always have to be big
• Innovation as the sum of the parts
• Taking the hive model further, we can
en...
“The mere formulation of a problem is far more often essential than
its solution, which may be merely a matter of mathemat...
• Trust is the foundation of employee
productivity and innovation. Work hard to
build trust: involve, communicate, adapt
•...
Fear, Anger and Frustration The Psychology of Fear in Organizations
by Sheila Keegan
• Explores the role of fear in organi...
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The Psychology of Fear in Organizations - How Can We Harness Fear to Fuel Innovation?

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Sheila Keegan, author of The Psychology of Fear in Organizations, outlines how fear can debilitate us yet motivate and stimulate us and drive innovation if harnessed.

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The Psychology of Fear in Organizations - How Can We Harness Fear to Fuel Innovation?

  1. 1. The Psychology of Fear in Organizations How can we harness fear to fuel innovation?
  2. 2. Fear, Anger and Frustration Why talk about fear? • Fear is the elephant in the room. In this time of rapid change, austerity and uncertainty, fear is the spectre that haunts us the most, as individuals, organizations and society – whether we acknowledge it or not. • Fear has many faces – the fear of loss of face, prestige, position, favour, fortune or job • The dominant fear at present is the fear of the unknown • What effect does fear have on our everyday lives and our working lives, and our ability to foster innovation within our organization?
  3. 3. Fear, Anger and Frustration Fear within organizations • Frustration • Powerlessness • Lack of control • The frenetic pace of life • No time for reflection • ‘Doing’ not ‘being’ • Alienation • Toxic environment • Emotional withdrawal • Loss of identity • Disengagemenent
  4. 4. Fear, Anger and Frustration FEAR BREEDS A NEED FOR CONTROL -Hierarchical control - Target culture - Withdrawal/’working to rule’ “Everyone is faced with similar fears, yet only those people who cannot admit the threats hiding inside (themselves) cope with them by resorting to control… a controlling person appears to be free from fear; that is the façade that control presents to the world. We put a high value on seeming to be in control of our lives, which further promotes the ego’s belief that its controlling behaviour is working.” (Deepak Chopra, 1996)
  5. 5. Fear, Anger and Frustration “Many companies are held in an invisible prison. Red tape, rigid administration, procedures and mushrooming regulations prevent any emergence of dynamism.” (Sprenger, 2004)
  6. 6. • Target culture – increased performance monitoring, target setting for individuals, departments and boards that are increasingly beholden to shareholders etc. has raised levels of fear and anxiety • At best, targets can provide useful steers, at worst, they can have long-term detrimental effects • In many situations, they undermine morale and employees’ sense of self- worth, autonomy, performance and productivity • Increases conformity and thus can hinder creativity
  7. 7. Innovation rarely thrives in this environment What is the alternative to managing by fear and control?
  8. 8. Fear, Anger and FrustrationTraditional ways of controlling organizations hierarchy, protocols, measurement • Traditionally, rejuvenating large organizations has been addressed through expensive change management programmes, which largely impose change from above • Variable degrees of success and often tend to provoke resistance and cynicism in the workplace • Top-down change programmes increasingly out of step with contemporary organisational life • Better to see organizations as a hive (as in bees) of complex relationships
  9. 9. The hive is a network of (more or less) shared values, practices and norms that we call organizational culture. The organization is not ‘out there’, separate from us. We – and the ways in which we interact, work and create things, together with others, are the organization. From this perspective, viewing all employees as co-contributors, you could argue that innovation is the responsibility of the whole organization.
  10. 10. • Use the knowledge we already have about how human beings function effectively • Research indicates that trust in organizations and leaders is at an all time low; at the same time, research shows that trust in organizations is vital • Employees who have high trust in the organisations they work for stay longer, put in more effort and work more cooperatively • Employees with low or no trust often reduce the effectiveness of their work, engage in counter-productive behaviour such as obstruction or seeking revenge or simply deciding to leave Overcoming barriers to innovation through prioritising human values: TRUST, ENGAGEMENT, MOTIVATION INNOVATIVE CULTURE
  11. 11. Building control through trust Relationship, egalitarianism, improvisation, hive culture
  12. 12. Fostering the Hive Mind in organizations • Strengthening the Hive to improve productivity • Foster organizational cultures in which greater individual autonomy and small organizational risks are part of everyone’s jobs – not just senior managers • Encourage people to think independently • A shared responsibility: everyone is responsible for the development of innovative thinking • This might sound grandiose, but it isn’t: employees are often very clear about what could be improved in their sphere of influence – but they need reassurance and the resources
  13. 13. Command & Control Paradigm Emergent or Hive Paradigm Keep people in ‘silos’ Build connectivity Ensure everyone ‘salutes the flag’ Encourage diversity Manage communication initiatives Have conversations in corridors Blame people for failures Learn from events Make it clear who’s in charge Give everyone leadership opportunities Tell people what to do Tell people what not to do Set objectives Agree clear goals Keep busy Wait expectantly
  14. 14. • Changing the nature of conversations in organizations can be the most powerful way to bring about an innovative mind-set and performance breakthroughs • An emergent or hive approach encourages employees to learn from each other, to take initiatives, to experiment • This helps to foster a more pro-active workforce and more innovative approaches; it also helps to reduce fear and anxiety, because groups of like-minded individuals are self-supporting
  15. 15. • Innovation is fuelled by passion • Creative discipline • Diversity: equal... but different • ‘Fear’ is not a valid reason to avoid innovation, yet it is frequently the unspoken barrier to innovation • Encourage people to think independently and share in the responsibility for innovation • Encourage greater flexibility in working relationships and thus greater initiative •RE-HUMANISING THE WORKPLACE
  16. 16. • Innovation doesn’t always have to be big • Innovation as the sum of the parts • Taking the hive model further, we can encourage small, practical hive steps, initiated and/or progressed by employees throughout the organization, which have a cumulative, contagious effect, particularly within an organization that fosters innovation • Through ongoing experimentation, development and diversity of perspectives, we can set in motion a process of rolling innovation “The whole principle came from the idea that if you broke down everything you could think of that goes into riding a bike, then improved it by 1%, you will get a significant increase when you put them all together.” (Dave Brailsford, 2012)
  17. 17. “The mere formulation of a problem is far more often essential than its solution, which may be merely a matter of mathematical or experimental skill. To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle requires creative imagination and marks real advances in science.” - Albert Einstein
  18. 18. • Trust is the foundation of employee productivity and innovation. Work hard to build trust: involve, communicate, adapt • Encourage healthy dissent, diversity and challenge: new thinking grows out of bringing new ideas together • Encourage trial and error – learn from failure • Don’t overdo targets and performance monitoring • Innovation doesn’t always have to be ‘big’. A series of small innovations may be more sustainable and less daunting “Fear, uncertainty and over- caution within the current business climate can be the death of innovation.” – Sheila Keegan, 2015
  19. 19. Fear, Anger and Frustration The Psychology of Fear in Organizations by Sheila Keegan • Explores the role of fear in organizations and its impact on well-being, productivity and economic growth • How fear limits us both on an individual and corporate level in our willingness to take risks to innovate • Examines the psychological barriers to innovation and some of the approaches that can start to loosen the paralysis that fear engenders, so that energy can be directed into more positive, creative directions • To regenerate the economy and shrug off the despondency and uncertainty of the last 5 years, we need to be brave, fearless and innovative Save 20% when you order via www.koganpage.com/POF Use the code POFS20 when prompted at the checkout.
  20. 20. Thank you

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