My favorite Agile methodology, Extreme Programming, has five main values: Simplicity, Communication, Feedback, Respect and Courage. The first four are relatively uncontested — everybody agrees on these four. Courage is different. Courage ostensibly flies in the face of safety, security, stability and risk mitigation. But, this is not what courage is about. Courage is actually about trust. Trust yourself, trust your team, trust your methods and trust your tools. But, trusting doesn't mean being gullible or blindly trusting things will somehow work out. Your trust must be based on solid facts, knowledge and experience. If you have never done something you can't just trust that you'll succeed. If you join a new team you can't trust them to pull through in difficult times. Once you gain trust, you can then be courageous and push the envelope knowing that if anything goes wrong you have a safety net.
When trying something new, always make sure you have plan B or a fallback. Start by asking "what if it fails?" This is not being pessimistic. This is being realistic. Sometimes, the downside is so minimal that there is no need to take any measures. If it fails, it fails and no harm done. Let's consider a concrete example: suppose you decide with your team that you need to switch to a new NoSQL database with a different API. What can go wrong? Plenty.
The new DB may have some serious problems you only detect after migration. The migration may take longer than anticipated. Major query logic may turn out to depend on special properties of the original DB. How can even think of something like that? Well, if your data access is localized to a small number of modules and if you can test the new DB side-by-side and you have a pretty good understanding of how the new DB works, then you should be confident enough to give it a go. To summarize — being courageous is not taking unacceptable risks and being impervious to failure. It is taking well-measured risks based on sound analysis of the situation and full trust that you know what to do if things go south.
XP, Agile programming, agile methodologies