Getting Comfortable with Failure — Fear of Failure is Actually Fear of Change — and Therefore Fear of Innovation - Investment Capital Growth

The Investment Capital Growth Blog

Welcome To The ICG Blog

Strategic Insights For Business Leaders & Their Teams

Investment Capital Growth is dedicated to the personal and professional development of C-Level Executives and the management teams that run modern business. Our blog shares insights and strategies culled from years of entrepreneural and executive experience. Our thought leaders regularly publish business articles to inspire and empower.

Get Inspired, Stay Connected:

  • Subscribe To Our Blog For Updates
  • Follow ICG on Social Media
  • Engage Our Consultants

ICG Newsletter Signup

ICG's Monthly Newsletter delivers insightful and actionable information for business owners and their teams. Get the latest updates from the ICG team each month including exclusive case studies, expert commentary, special offers and real life examples of business success. Join the thousands of subscribers that enjoy our informative publication by entering your contact information below.

Contact us.

Getting Comfortable with Failure — Fear of Failure is Actually Fear of Change — and Therefore Fear of Innovation

Posted by Cliff Locks On December 22, 2021 at 10:30 am

Getting Comfortable with Failure — Fear of Failure is Actually Fear of Change — and Therefore Fear of Innovation

Are you afraid of failure? Most people are. Do you know why?

Do you know why?

Whenever I ask people what they fear most about failure, I hear three consistent answers:

  1. Fear of negatively impacting your reputation: “If I fail, I won’t get the promotion.”
  2. Fear of wasting time: “I’ve invested two years of my life—we can’t fail now!”
  3. Fear of wasting money: “I’ve invested way too much money—we can’t fail now!”

Why does this matter?

Because whatever the reason, fear of failure is actually fear of change—and therefore fear of innovation.

For an entrepreneur, fear of failure can be crippling—paralyzing your creativity and risk-taking, and ultimately lowering your odds of success.

So, how do you minimize the fear of failure in yourself and your team?

It starts with shifting your perspective about failure–and that’s what today’s blog is all about.

Let’s dive in…


Failure is not necessarily the disaster that everyone assumes.

Stanford Business School Professor Baba Shiv explains it this way:

“Failure is a dreaded concept for most businesspeople. But failure can actually be a huge engine of innovation. The trick lies in approaching it with the right attitude and harnessing it as a blessing, not a curse.”

Shiv studies the role that the brain’s liking and wanting systems to play in shaping our decisions: a field known as Neuroeconomics.

When it comes to risk, he divides the world into two mindsets:

Type 1 people are fearful of making mistakes.

For them, failure is shameful and disastrous. As a result, they are risk-averse, and whatever progress they make is incremental at best.

On the other hand, Type 2 people are fearful of losing out on opportunities.

Places like Silicon Valley are full of Type 2 entrepreneurs. As Shiv puts it, “What is shameful to these people is sitting on the sidelines while someone else runs away with a great idea. Failure is not bad; it can actually be exciting.”

From the Type 2 perspective, failure is not bad.

In fact, Shiv says, “From so-called failures emerge those valuable gold nuggets—the ‘ah-ha!’ moments of insight that guide you toward your next innovation.”


Since using exponential technologies to create a world of abundance requires taking risks, figuring out how to convert Type 1, or “riskphobic,” people into Type 2 “riskphilic” players is vital to this effort.

One way that companies have begun strengthening their fearlessness muscles is rapid prototyping: the process of brainstorming wild new ideas, then quickly developing a physical model or mockup of the solution.

As Shiv points out, “This process allows people to move quickly from the abstract to the concrete and lets them visualize the outcome of their ideas. Because not all prototypes end up as the best or final solution, rapid prototyping also teaches that failure is actually a necessary part of the process.”

Over a decade ago, Michael Schrage, a Research Fellow at MIT’s Sloan School, shared his “5-5-5 Rapid Innovation Method” with me.

It’s a concrete way of putting Shiv’s notion into practice and making your company’s environment more riskphilic and tolerant of failure.

Below is my variation on Schrage’s 5-5-5 concept in three steps:

Step 1: Teams of 5

First, break your company or group into teams of five people. Try to maximize diversity in the group (e.g., age, expertise).

Why 5 people?

Because there’s no need for a “CEO,” or an org chart, or a communication plan. Information flows freely and there’s the diversity of ideas. This is similar to Jeff Bezos’ “two-pizza rule” for ideal working team size.

Step 2: Allocate Budget ($500 or $5,000)

Your next step is to allocate a budget for each of the teams. Choose something on the order of $500 to $5,000.

This is the amount of money each team will spend during the 5-5-5 program: enough money for the team to try a few experiments without breaking the bank.

Step 3: Allocate Time (5 Days for 5 Weeks)

Finally, give the teams a fixed and short amount of time to run a number of experiments to see if their idea has merit and gets traction.

The amount of time should be short enough so that there are no negative consequences if nothing useful materializes.


If Schrage’s methodology is used in a friendly, riskphilic environment—in which everyone understands that most ideas will fail—participants will not fear ramifications to their reputations.

Under these circumstances, there’s no downside to having a crazy idea, and a tremendous upside if that crazy idea turns out to be revolutionary, so people are much more willing to take risks.

And because each idea takes limited time and money to implement, no one worries too much about significant losses.

Will this process always lead to breakthroughs?


But it does create a safe environment where people can practice stretching their imaginations, taking bigger risks, and learning to see failure as a building block of innovation rather than its anathema.


The road to success as an entrepreneur (and entrepreneurial company) is paved with failure.

You must have a strategy in place to encourage risk-taking, manage that risk, and learn from the inevitable mistakes.

A risk-accepting mentality is key to rapid iteration, failing forward, and ultimately entrepreneurship.

It means not being afraid to fail—because you will fail. And that’s OK!

It’s part of the journey.

Let’s work together and build a culture of innovation, schedule a call:

Contributor: Peter Diamandis, Founder, X Prize Foundation and Chairman of Singularity University and edited by Cliff Locks, Investment Capital Growth, Managing Director and Executive Coach

Recent Blog Post: The Large Benefits of Spring Cleaning your Thinking Process


Cliff Locks is a trusted mentor, confidant, and advisor to CEOs, C-Level Exec, and high-potential employees to help them clarify goals, unlock their potential, and create actionable strategic plans.

Available to join your Board as a Certified Master Professional Board of Director and Advisor.

I am a trusted mentor, confidant, and advisor available by Zoom and by phone to be your right-hand man, who will make a significant contribution and impact on your way to success.

As a Trusted Mentor, Confidant, and Advisor, I support you, along with your company’s strategic and annual operating plan. This plan may include marketing, sales, product development, supply chain, hiring policies, compensation, benefits, performance management, and succession planning.


Most successful leaders enjoy talking to someone about their experiences, which is why most develop a close relationship with a Trusted Confidant—a person with whom they feel free to share their thoughts, concerns, and ideas without fear of sharing too much or being judged by the people they lead, or their colleagues and superiors. I am a sounding board who will help you to better develop and see your ideas through to fruition.

The most effective Executive find confidants who complement their strengths and sharpen their effectiveness. Bill Gates uses Steve Ballmer in this way; Warren Buffett turns to vice chairman Charlie Munger. In the end, both the Executive and their organizations benefit from these relationships.

As your trusted confidant, I am always by your side, holding your deepest secrets and never judging. Everything discussed is held in complete confidence.

What many executives feel is missing from their busy life is a trusted business person who understands the holistic complexity of both their business and personal life.

I strive to provide solid financial, business, and family expertise and serve as a dispassionate sounding board, a role I like to call “Executive Confidant.”

By holding a safe place for the Executive to work on life path issues as well as direction, I repeatedly see remarkable benefits as personal values become integrated with wealth and family decisions, enhancing a more meaningful life.

As an Executive Confidant, I welcome a confidential conversation about the most important issues facing the business leader, including:

• Strategic planning toward your visions of success and goal setting • Operations, planning, and execution • Career transition • Retirement • Legacy • Kids and money • Marriage and divorce • Health concerns • Values and life purpose • Vacations • Mentoring & depth of the executive bench • Succession planning

When I do my job well, I facilitate positive action in both your professional and personal life. This consistently has a positive benefit on impacting people within the sphere of your influence.

The job of an Executive can be lonely. For various reasons, confiding in colleagues, company associates, family members, or friends presents complications. Powerful, successful, and wealthy individuals often isolate themselves as a protective reaction because of their inability to find people they can trust and confide in.

Successful people are often surrounded by many people, yet they insulate and isolate themselves to varying levels of degree. This isolation factor is not often discussed in the same context because the assumption is that success and wealth only solve problems. The false belief is that it does not create more problems, when, in fact, sometimes it creates a unique set of new challenges. Success and wealth do not insulate you from the same pitfalls that the everyday person faces. It may give you access to better solutions perhaps, and that is what I can help you achieve. Financial business success can create unique vulnerabilities, often overlooked as most people feel that the “problems” of the wealthy are not real-life problems.

The Executive Confidant can be particularly helpful when:

• Aligning life priorities with the responsibilities of wealth. • Wanting more meaning and purpose in life. • Desiring a candid and experienced perspective. • The answers often come from within, and we cannot arrive at them easily. • Clarity often comes into focus, with skilled questions and guided discovery. The right questions can be the first step in achieving ideal outcomes.

Who can you turn to when you need to find clarity? Who is your “Executive Confidant”?

Referrals to team members or family members are always welcome.


One-to-One – Individual payment: Strategic Coaching: $295 per month (weekly for 30 minutes to 1 hour depending on the depth of our conversation Zoom meeting).

One-to-One – Corporate payment:
i. Coaching & Leadership Development: $600 per month engagement (weekly 1 hour Zoom meeting).
ii. One-to-One Executive Coaching and Mentoring: $600 per month engagement (weekly 1 hour Zoom meeting).
iii. Increasing Top Team Performance and 1:1 Mentoring Sessions: $600 per month engagement (weekly 1 hour Zoom meeting).
iv. Planning New Futures for Senior Executives: $600 per month engagement (weekly 1 hour Zoom meeting).

Team coaching:
i. Enhancing Boardroom Effectiveness & Executive Impact Group: Starting at $15,250 per annual engagement.
ii. Strategic & Operational Planning/KPI Development: Starting at $25,500 per annual engagement.
iii. Productivity Assessment & Profitability Improvement: Starting at $25,250 per annual engagement.
iv. Sales Channel and Product Development: Starting at $25,250 per annual engagement.
v. Energy and Sustainability Efficiency Initiatives: Starting at $18,500 per annual engagement.

Board of Directors or Board of Advisors:

Email me: [email protected] or Schedule a call: Cliff Locks #WSJ #privateequity #boardmembers #corporateleadership #IBD #CEO #CFO #COO #BoD #CXO #management #privateequity #PE #hedgefund #limitedpartners #LP #venutrecapital #VC #ethicalbusiness #directors #corporategovernance #accountability #integrity #ethics #corporateleadership #leadership #nonexecutivedirector #nonexec #boarddevelopment #leadershipfirst #mentoring #thoughtleadership #managementdevelopent #mentorship #leanmanagement #leadershipdevelopment #business #leanstartups #businessstrategy #InvestmentCapitalGrowth

[gravityform id=”1″ title=”true” description=”true”]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.