Bravery. It’s never been needed more. Or been harder to find. That’s why we decided to devote our latest GOOD Bites breakfast briefing to bravery – why it’s needed, what it looks like, and how to make it happen.

This wasn’t just self-indulgence either. It’s a subject our GOOD Bites audience has repeatedly asked for.

And you can see why.

We’re living in a world where old models are failing fast – for fundraising, engaging, building brands or simply staying relevant. When we’re under threat, we humans are programmed to do one of three things:

1. Flight: run away from danger (only works if we’re faster than the predator we’re faced with)
2. Freeze: do nothing and hope we’re not noticed (apparently this works really well with T-Rex’s)
3. Fight: face up to the danger, make ourselves bigger and aim to win.

At GOOD we’re seeing more and more of our clients in the charity sector choosing to fight.

They’ve realised that they can’t freeze – do nothing and hope the problem goes away. A long-term decline in results (and rise in costs) is proving that. The cliff edge is just getting closer.

And the crew of die-hards who choose flight – avoid change at all costs, defend the status quo or just leave their job – is shrinking.

So, fight is the only option left. But it’s also the hardest one. It takes bravery. And while bravery is something we all aspire to, it also scares us. It means sleepless nights, butterflies in stomachs and sometimes a genuine sense of panic as we launch ourselves into the unknown.

It’s also, we’re often told, not for us. We’re stuck with an outdated cultural trope of bravery as being an individual pursuit, an act of heroism, or a bolt of inspiration from the blue. Bravery is something you either are or aren’t. Rather than what it is, which is a team sport – and one we can all train for.

Bravery can be strategic.
It can be creative.
It can be cultural.
Best of all, it can be a mix of all three.

Achieving it takes work, not hope.

One of the tasks is to identify the blocks to change in your organisation. Often the hardest to spot are those invisible, entrenched behaviours and attitudes that are hardest to shift.

For instance, everyone hates hot-desking. But the opportunity to change your perspective (literally) is one that progressive organisations such as Valve have embraced. All their desks have wheels – employees are at liberty to move around the organisation at will, to form teams on the fly, to spark ideas and conversations with people they don’t sit next to every day.

The good news is, you don’t have to literally have wheels on your desk to think like this. But by doing so, you’re likely to identify the kinds of people who are vital in building a culture of bravery – people with a high tolerance of uncertainty. It’s only by embracing the uncertainty that new ideas cannot just be formed, but explored, developed and taken to market. Because doing so means embracing uncertainty every hour of every day, all the way until launch day. Can you live with that?

We’ve established that bravery can be trained for. So, what are the steps to making it happen in any team or organisation? We identified six critical ones.

  • Step one: set the context. You need to do what Extinction Rebellion have done so brilliantly these past few days, which is to focus attention on an unpalatable truth. Doing nothing – managing decline – is not an option. You need to make that case and prove it to anyone who will listen. Often projecting just three or four years into the future will do it for you.

  • Step two: face your fears. Have a pre-mortem. Ask what’s the worst that could happen – professionally and personally. Decide what could go wrong and mitigate. Create a test-and-learn plan with red lines – make guard rails around your plan, strategy or idea to contain failure. And make this a habit

  • Step three: normalise bravery. Bravery is by definition abnormal. That’s why we fear it. To overcome this, you need to drive a culture where bravery is looked for, recognised, talked about. Create a forum where other organisations’ or people’s brave ideas are talked about, dissected, discussed. Make it a habit. The best antidote to fear is familiarity.

  • Step four: brief for bravery. Once you’ve created the right environment for bravery to flourish, the next step is simply to ask for it. To set the expectation among leaders, colleagues and agency partners. To write briefs that outline the problem, not set out how you want to see it answered. Ask for bravery, then make room for it to happen.

  • Step five: measure and manage change. Strategic frameworks can allow you to look at where bravery can make the biggest difference, and what can be dropped to make room for it. Modelling change also means lining everything up: Vision, Skills, Incentives, Resources and, perhaps most importantly, a Plan for delivering. Without these, bravery is just an input. Brave outcomes are what matter.

  • Step six: set memorable goals. There is a huge gap between strategy and delivery. Often what closes it are memorable, measurable goals. Not figures, but aspirations. To win awards, be in the press, be recognised by a professional body. They aren’t important in themselves, but they help everyone visualise success.

There is, of course, a step seven. And that’s to take step one. That’s why we asked everyone who came to Thursday’s GOOD Bites to take a single, achievable step towards creating a culture of bravery in their team or organisation and report back on it within six weeks.

That’s why we’re asking you to do the same, too. If you’ve read this far, then you must recognise that bravery is needed and that it’s also achievable in any organisation as long as you set the right conditions and habits.

So, what are you going to do? Email us here and now and we’ll ask you how you’re getting on in six weeks. Bravery starts now.

We will leave you with our Senior Creative’s, Susan Milanovic, favourite campaign from the session: