Trump, Fear and Innovation

by Dave Menzies

The recent presidential election offered some extraordinary reactions from people all across the country. I've been witnessing this in the many news articles I've been reading (I'm a PR consultant, so part of my job is to read a wide swath of news publications every day) and especially in the online comments and in my social media streams. Aside from the expected political reactions of both candidates' supporters, I'm surprised by the amount of fear, specifically of the unknown, being expressed by an awful lot of people who did not support Donald Trump. For the longest time yesterday, I was having trouble relating to these people's fear. Thinking about it, I realize that I'm having trouble relating because in the innovation community, I don't see fear.

Sure, entrepreneurs with great ideas may seem a hesitant at first. Will my idea sell? Will people get it? How will I fund it? How do I start? There may even be a little tinge of fear throughout the startup process. But each and every startup I come across, whether it's a one- or two-person virtual operation or a well-funded manufacturer entering its second or third year, goes about their business head-first, convinced of their ability to succeed. Fear, even if it is present in some form internally, does not raise its ugly head publicly.

Fear can be debilitating, and getting a business up and running is hard enough. If you're truly committed to launching a startup, there simply is no room for fear. The entrepreneurs I see at events all across the Research Triangle region of North Carolina as well as in Wilmington and Winston-Salem are all enthusiastic risk-takers, willing to venture into the unknown, buoyed by their faith in their innovation.

The innovation community here in North Carolina (and from what I've seen all across the country) is nurturing by nature. It's a group of people in the same boat; sure, maybe some are competitors, but competition breeds more innovation and success, and everyone wants that. It's not so much a "support group" but rather an ever-growing energy source of encouragement, best practices and resources. I've never gone to an RTP 180Triangle TechBreakfastCEDNCTA, or 1 Million Cups event and not come away with my adrenaline flowing, full of excitement about the people and technologies I've come across. I've never met anyone at HQ RaleighFirst Flight Venture Center, or the American Underground who outwardly expressed one iota of fear.

I can't imagine an innovation community full of people focusing on fear of what might happen here or what might go wrong there, like many of the people I'm seeing on Twitter, Facebook, and news site comment sections expressing their fear of the unknown. There simply would not be any innovation, it wouldn't exist. Instead, innovators tend to address fear as an obstacle, overcoming it with a focused approach on finding answers to questions or resources to fill needs. If something goes wrong, innovators fix it and move on. But they don't stop before they start because they're afraid.

Hopefully, those individuals who are fearful of the unknown right now will find a community that will encourage them to find ways to actively overcome their fear. I certainly hope any of you in that boat who are reading this now don't take this the wrong way, I'm not trying to diss anyone or say that your concerns are not valid.

I guess I'm just spoiled by the innovation community and its lack of fear. And that's a good thing.