From 15th century explorers to 20th century astronauts, heroism has often been defined by a willingness to brave the unknown. It takes courage to venture into any kind of new territory, including the uncharted waters of entrepreneurship.
No wonder, then, that the most recent Hiscox American Courage Index shows clear evidence that the ability to confidently enter new realms is a common and essential trait shared by most business owners. In terms of overall courage, business owners scored 29.09 in the Winter 2016 Hiscox Courage Index versus 25.84 for non-business owners. They ranked above the mean in almost all categories, including moral courage, emotional courage, intellectual courage, and--not surprisingly--business courage, where they surpassed non-business owners by almost three to one.
Courage is the spark that ignites innovation, but it also takes forethought and good planning to chart a path to success for a new idea. Here are 10 key steps entrepreneurs can take to help make that happen.
- Match the innovation to the marketplace, says Vincent Ponzo, senior director of the Eugene Lang Entrepreneurship Center at Columbia Business School. Make sure there is strong demand for the product or service you're about to launch.
- Muscle up your marketing. Gyawu Mahama, who leads U.S. social media and marketing at Hiscox , says it's important to think about how you might market the product or service before moving ahead with the launch. "What makes your product unique, and why would consumers want to buy it? Assessing these factors ahead of time can help you make more-informed decisions about launches," he says.
- The devil is in the details, so attend to them in advance. Preparation is everything, as marketing consultants Joan Schneider and Julie Hall note in a much-cited Harvard Business Review article.
- Thoroughly research the shopping and buying habits of your target customers. This is especially important in the consumer packaged goods and retail products arena.
- Marshall your financial resources and deploy them strategically. R&D and product/service development can eat up a lot of cash, so make sure your financial plan accounts for launching, marketing, and selling your innovation.
- Temper courage with hard-headed practicality. It's easy to get caught up in the excitement of a great idea, but don't let emotions drive your strategic planning, cautions Kyle Jensen, director of entrepreneurship programs at Yale School of Management and a serial entrepreneur.
- Plan for success, but make allowances for the possibility of things going wrong. "It's easy to make a mistake when launching a new product," Mahama says. "In fact, sometimes a small business can be sued even if they haven't made a mistake. Hiscox liability insurance coverage can help protect businesses against claims of copyright infringement or negligent acts."
- Remember that courage is an asset in all areas of your business, especially leadership. True courage is marked by an ability to "make decisions under conditions of great uncertainty and to lead your employees through the accompanying fear and doubt," Jensen says.
- Support innovation-driven strategic decisions with solid data. "This is the crux of evidence-based entrepreneurship," Jensen says, quoting W. Edwards Deming's famous declaration: "In God we trust; all others bring data."
- Run innovative product and service ideas through the filter of risk management principles. Doing so can help you bring a balanced perspective to the project, identify and close knowledge gaps, and prioritize steps on the optimum path to market.
No doubt, courage will continue to drive innovation among entrepreneurs. Following some of the suggestions above can help you channel your courage so that you can transform your best ideas into marketplace realities.
 "Why Most Product Launches Fail," Harvard Business Review, April 2011.