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Courage

As Innovation and Growth Strategy consultants we have methods, processes,


and exercises that we apply to client problems. While tools from this vast
toolbox work for any type of organization seeking to provide a better service
or product (healthcare, non-profit, hospitality, consumer goods, financial
services, wholesalers, and B-2-B) to generate insights and custom solutions
that set them up as a category leader, what we sell is something else
ultimately. This is perhaps the rarest asset in corporate America for an
unknown reason, called courage.
According to Wikipedia, Courage is the ability and willingness to confront fear,
pain, danger, uncertainty, or intimidation. Most corporate cultures move in
fear, make decisions for the worst case, then present power points for their
leadership teams like a pep rally squad playing the roles of analyst and
accountant. What happened to the ability to dream, to share a vision, to
outline something bold? In the land of how-we-do-things-here, no new
thinking is allowed and courage is stamped out the moment it shows the glint
in its dreamy eye.
Its little wonder that all of the big telecommunications companies can only
grow by major acquisition rather than human invention. Given that they are
fixed and rigid in their business model, infrastructure costs, and roles, they
cannot afford to re-think the industry. So, in moves a concept that defies their
paradigmatic models, Skype, and without the capital-intensive notion of a
network, they become the market leader in international calls with more than
12% of the market. The bigger companies lacked the courage to drop their
world-view and see the market needs and new technological possibilities with
the objectivity of a start-up.
Yet, many corporate citizens lust after such a wild leap. On every corporate
desk we see copies of the Business Model Canvas or Lean Start-up.
Skunkworks teams meet with the fervor and passion of illicit love. Like stolen
love, these relationships rarely make it in the light of day. The concepts are
cleaned up and presented to the larger enterprise. Then, behold the attack.
Behold the boundaries. Behold the reasons why we cannot move ahead with
something radical. Faint praise for fresh thinking peppers the conversation,
then its back to business as usual.
This cynical, but too-true, scene is enacted again and again every day in
America. Cultural antibodies eat at any expression of courage like rapacious
piranhas in company after company. The only antidote is courage, the
courage to confront fears, dangers, and uncertainties. To be able to enact this
courage, it takes a focus on an innovation culture where even the business
model that brings us together is an on-going experiment and prototype open
to improvement.

Courage; it changes things, for the better.