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Brené Brown On Innovation Through Vulnerability

Many of us on the WaPo Labs team find inspiration from the TED Conference. Each talk is chock full of ideas that spark the imagination.

One of the recent stars to emerge from TED is Brené Brown. Brown is a professor at the University of Houston whose research revolves around the study of human connections, with an emphasis on vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame. Her research was relatively unknown until her 2010 TEDxHouston talk launched her into Internet stardom — the video has garnered more than six million views — and put vulnerability on the cultural table as a hot topic.

Brené Brown On Innovation Through Vulnerability

Since that first TED talk, Brown’s work has continued to evolve. In 2012, she gave another notable talk at TED in Long Beach and published her latest book, Daring Greatly. The book gets its title from Teddy Roosevelt’s quote that it is not the critic who counts, but rather “the man who is actually in the arena,” and that “if he fails, he at least fails while daring greatly.” In Daring Greatly, Brown delves deeper into vulnerability, defining it as “uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure” — and the gateway to love and creativity.

But what does vulnerability have to do the Labs team and its mission — to focus on digital innovation and the future of news?

For starters, in her 2012 TED talk, Listening to Shame, Brown noted, “Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation and change.” And in a September Q&A with Fast Company, Brown discusses why embracing the myth of vulnerability is a key ingredient to any successful business: According to her, the myth is “that vulnerability is weakness, that we can opt out of it, that vulnerability is unfiltered disclosure, and that we can go it alone.” And this is simply not true.

In the same piece, Brown explains that to successfully battle vulnerability and encourage innovation, an organization must “create a culture of engagement. Where work is humanized, where relationship is valued, where very explicitly, people feel safe making mistakes, asking for help, and trying new things.”

Where people take risks — and dare to dare, greatly.

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