Those famous words, spoken by the Franklin D. Roosevelt during his first Presidential address at the height of the Great Depression, have become a part of our popular culture.
There are, of course, more things to fear than fear and there are times when fear can be useful and life-enhancing. However, in the midst of a crisis or a period of change there is nothing more likely to inhibit our capacity for sound judgement than being overwhelmed with irrational fear.
Last Friday, after Brexit, people woke up feeling scared. What had happened was that a theoretical possibility had become real, the world had changed around them and they were frightened of the unknown.
Fear makes us lose the balance of our mind. It makes us hesitant and ineffective and when we confront situations we might otherwise manage with ease.
Perhaps most dangerous of all, fear makes us fearful of change. In our personal and professional lives, it stunts our creativity, inhibits our courage and makes us creatures of bad habits. It does this because of the way our brain mismanages experience. Here’s how it works:
- Most of our judgements are unconscious and based on what we call gut feeling as opposed to rational thought.
- Some gut feelings such as the fear of snakes have deep evolutionary roots. Others, such as the fear of marketing agencies, are learned.
- We tend to have the most intense feelings about the experiences that we recall with the greatest ease. These experiences tend to be bad ones. Let’s say, for instance, you’re walking down a London street in the evening. It’s one of the safest streets in London but you’re scared because five years ago you got mugged and robbed on this street. Statistically this street is safe but the availability of a bad memory magnifies the risk.
The availability of memories that provoke strong emotions, especially fear and our preference for stories over facts are just two of the many factors that make our unconscious judgements biased and irrational.
The key to overcoming fear and taking the risk out of change is learning to think statistically and prioritise evidence over experience. This is the practical and psychological foundation of Cognitions’ Route to Growth, which we have developed over the past 18 years.
We learned that many businesses had bad experiences with marketing agencies that made them fearful to invest in order to grow their businesses. Yet they still wanted and needed growth!
We reasoned that the way out of this dilemma was to create a process that uses the brain’s biases when they are useful (telling a great story about your company) and rationalises them when they are not (basing your marketing strategy on your most memorable campaign).
We called this process Route to Growth and it uses psychology, research, statistical thinking, integration and automation to create an evidence-based platform for growth. Like all business processes that create change, it is fraught with risk but because it understands how all the brain’s systems contribute to effective decision-making it never lets fear take control.
With Route to Growth your mind will be clear, your direction focused and the outcomes evaluated, reviewed and refined and that’s as risk-averse, reassuring and effective as marketing gets.