Be Bold.

Part 2 of 4 from the “Service Design requires an attitude shift!” series

Be bold, be open for collaboration and be willing to change the organizational structure. This is the attitude shift I proposed in my previous blog. Now I will elaborate on the first part of my statement: be bold!

Any innovation involving humans thrives in first place by a fitting personal attitude. “Be the change you wish to see in the world” might be an overused quote by Ghandi but still holds true.

Starting an innovative service design means to boldly go where no one has gone before

Starting an innovative service design means to boldly go where no one has gone before. The uncertainty this causes is an inescapable part of an innovation project. Unless you have a crystal ball, you will have to be comfortable with the uncertainty and the critics. Being bold depends on dealing with these critics in a sustainable and healthy way. This keeps you open towards collaboration and true to yourself.

In contrary to my previous assumptions; the answer to being bold does not merely lie in improving your self-esteem. Self-esteem is a global evaluation of self-worth. This means you can only become more confident by comparing yourself to others. In our western culture we have learned the objective to create self-esteem can only reached by being above average. Try and tell someone he or she is average, they will not be happy with you. Still, logically, most of us are inevitably average. This is where the disconnect between reality and “what you should be” lies. You only compare yourself with “above average people” to try and up your self-esteem. Result: you start feeling bad about yourself, open up less to others and eventually cease being bold.

Service design looses up tongues and inevitably leads to criticism. Relying too much on external approval will lead to very low self-esteem. This low self-esteem can manifest itself in closing yourself off to others. This attitude hinders the project’s process. It is in conflict with the second and third part of the attitude shift: be open for collaboration and be willing to change the organizational structure.

So how can you be comfortable with being bold? First of all, practice some self-compassion. Kristin Neff has written some great work on how to counteract the negative things we tell ourselves. Then work on vulnerability, the counterpart of shame. Shame comes from the feeling of not being worthy. Many, myself included, tend to be consumed with thoughts such as “am I good enough?” or “am I worthy enough?”. Communicating from this place of fear and shame leads to disconnect (“I don’t dare to talk to my team mates, they’re probably not on my side”), frustration (“Why is no one listening to me?!”) and a lot of sadness (“I’m not good enough for this place, I feel so lonely”).

“If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive.” — Brené Brown

But “If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive.” This wisdom of Brené Brown really struck a chord with me during the coaching track I went through a few months ago. I learned to recognize my destructive thoughts and manage them. As a result, I noticed my anxiety and feeling of shame went down which improved my connection to others. Mainly because my communication style and coping mechanisms changed, I was able to open up to others which improved our collaboration. I found back my confidence and dared to be bold again (evidence: you are reading my blog!).

Every personal journey is of course different, but if you recognize my struggles there are some tips to try out and improve your vulnerability:

  • Watch the videos of Brené and Kristin to receive a clear and inspiring explanation on the subjects of vulnerability and self-compassion. (I listed some at the end of the blog)
  • Make the effort to start recognizing when your “saboteur” is talking. This is the negative voice in your head that says: “they will hate your ideas” or “they do not want to listen to you”.
  • Start differentiating between thoughts that are truthful and those that come from a place of shame and hurt. Ask yourself: “Did they actually say that they hated my ideas? (and if so, so what?!)” and “Do they really not listen to me or am I too scared to let myself be heard? (which is ok, but don’t blame it on the other person then)”. This counteracting of your saboteur is easiest with an outside perspective. Often if you speak something out loud it is easier to see the flaw in your thinking. You can do this by yourself or ask friends, family or a coach for help. (No shame in asking some help, practice some self-compassion!)
  • If you feel like you are not quick enough in becoming bold. I would say; relax, this is a life long journey with ups and downs. I promise it will get better when working on it. Accepting and committing to the process is the best you can do for yourself.

Vulnerability is important to be practiced by everyone involved in a Service Design project, not only the designers, because the Service Design methodology is creative at heart. Design is a function of connection, there is nothing more vulnerable than creativity. This connection is at the core of practicing service design. To be successful you have to get out of your comfort zone and be bold!

Next week I will write about the second part of the attitude shift: be open to collaborate. In the meantime: feel free to share your journeys on becoming bold. Are there any other tips and tricks that helped you?

Some talks which inspired me to be bold:

Brené Brown:

The power of vulnerability

Listening to shame

Why your critics aren’t the ones who count

Kristin Neff:

The space between self-esteem and self-comparison