ENT 601-Honesty in the face of Fear

Catmull, E., & Wallace, A. (2014). Creativity, Inc: Overcoming the unseen forces that stand in the way of true inspiration: Random House.

 “… As valuable as the information is that comes from honesty and as loudly as we proclaim its importance, our own fears and instincts for self-preservation often cause us to hold back” (Catmull 2014). In the chapter “Honesty and Candor” Ed Catmull discusses a disturbing reality that we all know to be true in the workplace. Many times, employees are afraid to say what they are really thinking. This can be in regard to voicing ones concerns about a flaw with services, employees, or even leadership. This could also be in regard to presenting a fresh idea. Often times this is due to fear that the idea will be rejected by others. As Ed states, “A hallmark of a healthy creative culture is that its people feel free to share ideas, options, and criticism” (Catmull 2014). The design thinking concept has increasingly been introduced and implemented into the workplace. It is the notion that creatives should not be the only ones “designing” but rather all team members should be. They should be expressing and implementing ideas because this fosters quick thinking/reaction to problems that may arise in the future.

As previously mentioned, many employees do not feel they have the freedom to express ideas. They are fearful of rejection and failure. In the chapter “Fear and Failure” Ed notes that his company decided to look inward whenever failure or mistakes occurred. Furthermore, instead of trying to prevent errors they embraced them. They came to the knowing that all team members had good intentions and ultimately, they also wanted to find solutions to problems. By having trust in employees and building strong relationships, this approach to problem solving is possible. As Ed notes, you can give employees their responsibilities, let the mistakes happen, and let the people fix them (Catmull 2014). As a leader, or a member of management staff, there is no obligation to prevent risks but rather to encourage and build the ability to recover.

Catmull, E., & Wallace, A. (2014). Creativity, Inc: Overcoming the unseen forces that stand in the way of true inspiration: Random House.

Join the Conversation


  1. Shayna,
    You’re reading has provided some excellent thoughts. Employees can often be too afraid to express ideas with the fear of rejection by others. However, it is true that we do need to listen to what everyone has to say regardless of what the idea is. Some of the best ideas didn’t start out as being successful, those ideas needed to be adjusted/changed in order to be successful in the end. Being open minded is the best way to be as entrepreneurs. Great post!


  2. Hi Shayna,
    You give a very nice summary of the Creativity Inc. I empathize with being afraid to speak up with people in a leadership position to me. It can be especially hard as a female. I would love to hear more about you in your posts!


  3. Shay,
    I agree that we should be honest when expressing our ideas or thoughts about a product or service. Some barriers I have encountered when wanting to express my opinions have been fear and over overthinking what the response would be. I agree that the fear of rejection is another barrier to being honest when presenting ideas or feedback. An atmosphere should be created in the workplace that allows everyone to feel comfortable to express their honest opinions and ideas without fear of retribution. I enjoyed reading your post.


  4. Shayna,
    Employees in the workplace do often fear rejection as they see rejection as a form of failure. Employees who fear rejection generally only speak up when they know what they are about to say will be accepted without any doubt. Regardless, employees should feel that it is okay to speak up about any concerns or ideas that come to mind. I like the idea that Ed presented with embracing any ideas from employees and having the opportunity to learn from those ideas even if those ideas didn’t work out. Perhaps even allowing employees to anonymously provide feedback might alleviate the fear of rejection. Excellent review on this particular chapter dealing with honesty and embracing all forms of feedback!


  5. Shayna,
    I am really digging these posts and the book sounds very interesting. Every new post I read, I feel like I am getting the answers I had from your last post. The big takeaway I had from this post comes in the last line. Understanding that you can never prevent mistakes/risks, but instead be able to adjust when that time comes and recover is something I try to practice every day. “What am I doing today to prepare for for what tomorrow might bring” is something I constantly find myself thinking. Great post! It definitely got me thinking about new strategies I could be utilizing.


  6. This quote right here

    “… As valuable as the information is that comes from honesty and as loudly as we proclaim its importance, our own fears and instincts for self-preservation often cause us to hold back” is the TRUTH!
    So. Much. Yes…I was just talking about how so many times we are limited is because of our fear and the desire to feel “safe.”

    How do we create safe spaces for our employees? I think that this is a question every single person needs to ask themselves about in regards to the people in their lives. How am I creating and curating spaces that are safe for the people that I love, or that exist in intimate and valued spaces in my life? I guess to go one step further, we have got to care about being a safe place for someone. It goes so much beyond just letting people tell you their feelings, or being willing to hold space for different forms of themselves. When we are able to have spaces that are safe we give people subconscious permission to tell us what they think. Sometimes people need to feel that it is okay to tell you what they think.

    I think that in addition to that asking people regularly about their ideas is helpful. It is like you a creating a standard as a boss or business owner (or maybe even a friend if this is how you chose to employ this practice) for them to consult with you about their ideas, and creating a habit. These questions could also be implemented in employee meetings, over weekly e-mail check ins, or as an office wide practice. I think that this is a good thing for the business to help it generate new fresh and innovative ideas, but also good for the business as well. Seeing things from different and new eyes, is sometimes exactly what a business needs to continue growing and expanding.


  7. It is definitely important to look internally for new ideas. These people are the ones who know the business best and can be a great source of untapped ideas. I know that I love the challenge to play devil’s advocate and maybe I stifle people from coming to me with new ideas. Having an open channel of communication where you don’t need to be afraid of having your suggestion berated is also a good point. Not every idea will be a good idea you need to implement, but it is important to have these lines of communications ready so that when the big idea does come, you are sure to capture it.


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