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Vulnerability as an innovation catalyst in the workplace

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The fear of vulnerability can hold us back from reaching our full potential, both in and outside of the office.

Understanding its reasoning and challenging its boundaries can nudge creativity and authentic connection, as well as bring change and innovation in the workplace.

Because great ideas need authentic courage to be brought into the world and vulnerability is the only way out.

To better frame the idea, let’s take a little imagination exercise.

You’re standing in front of your co-workers, getting prepped to go through the presentation that you’ve been working on for the past few weeks. It’s something you believe in, something important to you. You’re putting in order all the ideas in your head. Trying to silence the saboteur that keeps saying you’re not good enough. Your palms are sweating, drops running down your face. You’re wishing to be anywhere in the world but here. 

Take a deep breath.

How many times did you stop from saying or doing something because you were afraid you were going to be judged?

You feared you were going to lose authority or respect if you got exposed like that, sharing personal stories or daring ideas?

You’re not alone, the fear of vulnerability is very common.

Exposing our ideas and beliefs for all to see and judge is scary. And in this, the willingness to be seen, to show up despite uncertain outcomes, is essentially the greatest expression of courage. 

 

You’ve probably already heard of Brene Brown, her Daring greatly and the crucial thesis that vulnerability is our greatest measure of courage.

daring-greatly-book-cover-brene-brown

In a culture where most of us were raised to believe that vulnerability is weakness, that to be open is to be weak, it is bewildering news. Yet essential, because vulnerability is the magical birthplace of joy, creativity and authentic human connection.

 

Embracing vulnerability in the office. Innovation through risk-taking

When it comes to business growth and development, one principle is indisputable: you cannot improve, change or innovate without risk-taking.

In other words, you cannot innovate without acknowledging uncertainty. And in doing so, you embrace vulnerability as part of the process: it is here to remind you that it might as well not work out in the end, yet that it still deserves a shot.

When there is no tolerance for failure, there can be no innovation. It is in our power to develop workplace cultures that encourage risk-taking, accommodate trust versus condemnation and collaboration versus competition. It is our responsibility as employees and managers to nurture a culture where all ideas are respected and valued for what they truly are: pure diamonds in need of polishing.

Now, going back to the presentation situation above: it takes a great amount of courage to show up and speak in all honesty about ideas we truly believe in. In order to feel safe to do so, we need to feel supported to learn, experiment and share stories, struggles and personal experiences. These will increase creativity and give more meaning to whatever it is that we’re doing.

 

The vulnerability of fear. Understanding fear and nudging vulnerability

You can start working on a few simple aspects to support yourself on your journey towards incorporating vulnerability in your work and relationships:

 

#1. Practice mindfulness

Acknowledge and work with the little moments of vulnerability. Listen to your shame, explore the emotions, thoughts, and triggers that you’re experiencing in moments of great exposure. Self-awareness will shed light on the reasons you act in certain ways and help you challenge the boundaries of your unease and anxiety.

 

#2. Don’t hold yourself to an ideal

The more we hold ourselves to impossible ideals, the easier it is to give up. When we do not want to be perceived as imperfect, we simply end up never showing up and missing out on the opportunity to be seen, the opportunity to bring out imperfect, yet amazing ideas into the world. Brown sums it up perfectly when she says “perfectionism is a 20-ton shield – we think it will protect us, but it keeps us from being seen”.

 

#3. Get clear on your values

Knowing why you did something in the first place will give you the needed courage to put yourself out there or, otherwise, help you rise back up when you fail and try again. And again. And again.

 

Being brave and showing up in honest ways helps us become more aware of the ideas and values that guide our lives. It also makes the people around us a little braver too.

And in this, vulnerability is the place where my magic meets your magic and together we create something beautiful and powerful and one of a kind.

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