Diagnosis is Step 1 for Leaders to Make Courage Contagious.  Inventive thinking doesn’t “just happen” — even when you recruit brilliant stars, give them autonomy, give them funding and ask them to bring you their best recommendations. Can you recognize when your team, task force, Board Meeting or customer negotiation falls into one (or more) of these risk-averse traps – and gets derailed or blocked by a Courage Problem?

Victim thinking. Justify passivity or rationalise mistakes by declaring why it was someone else’s fault and why a positive outcome was impossible. Complain that the culture was dysfunctional, opposition was too steep, no one gave your group the permission or resources needed. Deflect accountability for mistakes, setbacks or miscalculations.

Hierarchy deference. Please the boss. Look to higher-ups – with most seniority, rank or hegemony – for directions, decisions or approval. Wait for orders, instead of looking to people on the front lines to take initiative. Enable higher-ups to believe in their superiority or infallibility.

Groupthink. Look around the room and see everyone else nod in agreement. When you raise questions, no one else wants to grapple with the issues or wants you to make waves. “We’ve already decided,” they say, “Move on” – even though you sense something isn’t right.

Bias against outliers. Act startled, perplexed or annoyed when someone who doesn’t look or sound like “one of us” offers a disruptive or out-of-the-box idea. Respond to critical thinking from a person who doesn’t look or think like “the rest of us” with kill-the-messenger antagonism, rather than opening up and listen to their threat-assessments or opportunity-assessments.

Silo myopia. People from other disciplines or work streams expect you to stay in your lane and not interfere with their autonomy. Colleagues bristle if other departments or business units reach out to request co-ordination or multi-disciplinary idea-sharing, priority-setting and critical thinking. People look narrowly at what my group needs to accomplish our goals before looking at what will make the enterprise-as-a-whole successful.

Tunnel vision. People come into fact-finding with confirmation bias – and want to validate what they already believe to be true. Opportunities and problems are defined incorrectly by focusing on what you know or what you have already done or considered (e.g., asking the question, “How do we raise capital?” rather than “How do we drive growth?”)

Win/lose rivalries. Approach other groups as rivals or adversaries rather than collaborators. Politicize differences of opinion by turning them into power struggles or loyalty tests (“Are you with us or not?”). While appearing pleasant and upbeat, vie for upper hand or maximum share of resources or visibility. Negotiate to win, not for win/win/win value-optimisation.

Sandbagging. Lower standards or extend timelines so people stay in their comfort zones . Back off if teammates bristle when conclusions are challenged by critical thinking. Settle for a “majority-rules” vote rather than engaging and working through thorny, contentious or vexing issues. Regress to average, not awesome, performance.

Summit fever. Some people are so overconfident, swept up in team spirit and excited about possibilities that they overcommit or push forward without proper precautions and risk mitigation. Others get swept up in overconfident delusions and experience their fast cadence as “getting in front of a moving train,” so they decide to go along and support rather than slow things down,

Loss aversion. People play not to lose, rather than play to win. They double down or keep going in the same direction because they feel they’ve lost so much in a deal that they cannot afford to walk away and cut their losses.

Chaos and turbulence. Distracted by politics, information overload, side-issues, noise. Deliberations reach false consensus by involving too few people or fail to reach consensus because too many people attend without a design or mechanism to shift from idea-sharing and brainstorming into decision-taking.

Role ambiguity. Wait for someone else to step up and call for a decision or set the agenda because it isn’t clear who plays what role. Let lack of clarity drift rather than bringing definition to the deliberations.

Rub the wrong way. Unconscious bias toward alien perspectives, personalities, ethnic groups, genders, age groups or professions – particularly when they behave in ways that are culturally appropriate for their group but offensive to you. 

Step 2 is ennobling – lifting – replacing risk-averse thinking with inventive thinking. We can show you 5 proven steps to do this. Some of these steps may come easily to you. Others may take more conscious effort and practice, before you work them into a fluent uplifting motion. The steps are: (1) AROUSE passion -> energize and revitalize WILL; (2) AIM high -> drive to a profitable higher PURPOSE; (3) ASK inquisitively -> open CANDOUR; (4) ALIGN interests -> trust to RISK, (5) ADHERE to new plans, inventions, best practices -> instill RIGOUR.

Take this assessment to see if your leaders and teams have the Readiness to PowerUP their EnCourage Quotient (EnQ)™ and encode these 5 Courage Activators at “moments of truth” when they could fall into risk-averse traps.