It is not foes that create disruption – it’s the fear of change.

When you hear the word ‘fear’ what happens? Do you think it produces a productive emotion, or something to be avoided? Do you wish you had no ‘foes’ and would life be easier?

During my keynote presentations I sometimes speak about fear. My topic might be about business, the experience economy or the entrepreneurial journey – but I always speak about the human side of business. Business is a human game. Whether we like it or not emotion is part of the entrepreneurial journey. A very big part.

Disruption seems to be the topic of the moment. But disruption is not caused by technology – it is caused by customers seeking something different – as so eloquently represented in this infographic. 

keynote presentations

It is the fear of the unknown – the fear of the disruptor. Did Blockbuster see Netflix as a disruptor or a ‘challenger brand’? Did Taxi companies see Lyft and Uber as a fad – or did they genuinely fear the competition? Do hotels see AirBNB as disruptors… and fear it? Did Yellow pages fear Google or Facebook?

Fear is a big driver for action, and we cannot deny that it impacts our performance in business. FEAR can be used in a productive way and it can energise us. I know the fear of failure continues to drive me.)

Fear is not ‘horror’. The sense of fear we manifest most often is based on the set of circumstances in front of us, whereas horror is what happens when fears become a reality.

Fear is not all bad. Yes, it can stop us, thwart our ideas or slow us down – but it is one of the most powerful human emotions that can be harnessed and used to achieve great things. 

It provides us with a reference point, and when it is overcome – ie you acknowledge you are fearful, but you act anyway – and you achieve what you wanted, then there comes an incredible sense of accomplishment. The victories are even greater when you have overcome your own fear.

Personally, I don’t watch horror films. I don’t like the way I experience fear, and I don’t like surrendering to this emotion. Alas, fear is useful…

  • Fear is the anticipation that something is about to happen, and the anxiety that what will happen will be terrible. It is part of the human survival instinct.
  • Fear does keep us alive as a species because it keeps us competitive and compels us to avoid danger and to view the unknown with caution.
  • Fear acts to protect society and culture by reinforcing the behaviors that are advantageous – because of this wariness to outside threats.

When things that we fear eventuate, this can create a feeling of horror – the dark realisation that our world is fundamentally, shockingly and forever altered. And this does happen in business too.

A mind once opened to a new idea is forever changed. 

Yet fear has a powerful role to play in opening our minds to a different view of the world such as:

  • It can be a rite of passage and a test of courage
  • It can reinforce notions of right and wrong or good versus bad
  • It can create a contrast in the emotional spectrum
  • It can allow us to create new things.

Fear of failure, fear of missing out, fear of making a fool of yourself – these are all ways in which that the brain uses the emotion of fear to either stop us or compel us to action.

Fear of the unknown is a big one for business. Fear of the competition, or fear of an unseen shift in business sentiment or external factors.

In the experience economy, our business is forever changed. We have big scary competitors. Years ago, we had a foreign competitor arrive in Australia. They arrived, with people, and an office and infrastructure. These days, the big scary (often faceless) global competitors may never even set foot in our geography, may never contribute in a meaningful way to our society (ie taxes), and we may never get to eyeball them. Yet they are here and they are a force.

Business in Australia has changed forever. Ecommerce businesses are changing by the minute. In fact, in the mere minutes it has taken you to read this article, Google has processed more than 3.5 million search requests.

Yet I compel you to let fear drive you, rather than debilitate you. Act to either create, disrupt or protect yourself from foes.

We must use this fear to propel us, to fight for what we believe in, and to unite to protect what we have created for the Australian business community.

I was inspired to write this after visiting the Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle.

Naomi Simson entrepreneur co-founded The Big Red Group in 2017 which includes brands such as RedBalloonAdrenalineIfOnly and She has been blogging for a decade at, is a professional speaker, author of Live What You Love & Ready To Soar, and a “Shark” on business reality show Shark Tank Australia.

Also published on Medium.

Also published on Medium.

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