Choose to Become Fearless in 2015: A Resolution for Every CEO

It’s time to start afresh in the new year, and you know the best way to do that? Ditch your binder of strategic planning documents and get ready to take some real risks.

Organizations that are wildly successful have one thing in common: fearlessness. True innovation starts the moment you decide to throw all of your hard work away and rebuild again.

Of course, even bold leaders are prey to fearfulness. You can see your opportunities to innovate, but you play the safe bets. “Next quarter,” you say. You choose the employee with the better pedigree even though your gut tells you that they don’t have the passion you’re looking for. You play it safe, because safe is predictable.

These are all rational decisions. The problem is, they’re rarely transformative.

Real transformation and victory comes from taking risks, accumulating small wins, and consistently adapting from lessons learned along the way.

There are three ways any CEO can bring fearlessness to 2015, and infuse it into the DNA of their company:

Be fearless about hiring the right people.

If a prospective employee doesn’t seem to “get it” on day one, they are not going to get it. Period.

Reconsider your hiring process. The world’s leading tech companies are renowned for their rigorous interview processes. There’s a reason for that — hiring from the neck up is more effective in the long-term.

No matter what the position is, hire a brain before you hire credentials.

At Tonic, we have an apprenticeship program that allows us to discover Philadelphia-area talent in an unconventional way. Through the program, we’ve invited a waitress, a cell phone salesman and others to come learn how to code with us. Each demonstrated the type of creativity and problem-solving ability that allows our company culture to thrive. Those individuals are now some of our best full-time developers. Jay Newlin, a former pastor, runs our Quality Assurance department. None of these people had traditional credentials, but they had initiative and a willingness to learn. You can’t teach that.

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Be fearless in your growth strategy.

You can try to implement fearlessness today, but ultimately it is a culture that needs time to grow and fully develop. Look for ways to infuse it into every new engagement with a client or customer. At Tonic, we have seen our culture of fearlessness return tenfold in our growth strategy.

Early on, we realized we needed to change our approach to finding new clients. Waiting to respond to RFPs might be the way many in our industry seek new business, and inevitably we can all find work that way, but will it be the type of business we are aspiring for? For Tonic, will it bring us closer to the companies that share our appetite for innovation and disruptive, meaningful products? Will it find us partners that share our passion for the type of design that can shape a better world?

Instead, Tonic developed a portfolio strategy that allows us to invest in our own ideas, and help us land the clients we wanted.

We decided to pursue Urban Outfitters, so we assembled a team of strategists, developers and designers to dream big. We scoured the industry for competitive insights and potential opportunities to inject new thinking into what an incredible online shopping experience might be.

The result was “The Outfitter,” a visual, Pandora-inspired experience designed to suit your fashion sense, not your browser history. We defined its purpose: to make eCommerce smarter, more relevant and more fun.

Here’s the catch: URBN never bought the product. However, that exercise and thinking led Tonic to win business with several other fashion retailers. And we’re more inspired and engaged today because of it.

Spread your fearlessness like wildfire.

In 2015, adopt a single focus, and spread your fearlessness like wildfire.

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Having a single focus propels companies into greatness. Apple is driven by simplicity, utility, and beauty in design. Zappos is determined to make customers happy. UPS is focused on efficiency.

Notice a common thread? All these companies meld purpose with passion. Passion, when combined with fearlessness, leads to truly remarkable things.

In 2015, let fearlessness be your fuel. It will take your focus to a new level, draw the right people to work for you, and grow your business into the exciting enterprise you know it can be.

How will you embrace fearlessness in 2015?

This guest post is courtesy of Chris Bye. He is CEO & Co-Founder of Philadelphia-based Tonic Design Co.. Recently named one of Philadelphia's 100 fastest-growing companies, Tonic is a digital product design firm that believes in building products that are beautiful, inside and out. 

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