Most Saguaros cactus do not have golf balls embedded in their arms. However, those that reside within a golf course are inclined to collect a few errant shots. I have been in many conversations where a social sector cause wishes to attract a sensational feature or benefit, perhaps a billionaire philanthropist who takes interest in supporting the enterprise with untold generosity. However, if we are not in a billionaire’s mindset, then perhaps we are like a cactus in the wild trying to catch golf balls. Embrace our respective geographies, we are remarkable for existing within the landscape we occupy.
Belief might be based on a sense of proportion and scale. As we gain access to more evidence we can reinforce our beliefs. We have access to a prior perspective and then opportunity to experiment with change. Our perspective may be confirm our beliefs or encourage an update.
When preparing to saddle a horse with a western style saddle, the pad that is placed against the horse’s coat is tented. Meaning, the front edge it is raised a few inches from the horse’s shoulders to create a void. You can see a similar feature incorporated into the design of a saddle. The purpose is to leave room for the pad and saddle to settle into place once the rider is seated and riding commences.
How might we leave room within our lives, schedules, strategic plans,job descriptions, and budgets to accommodate for the unexpected and ballast that will inevitably be added to our projects? A skin tight fit might be perfect for race day aerodynamics but may be a liability over the course of an expedition.
Big, loud, jolting, climatic events get noticed. They demand attention by overloading the senses. Less noticed are endings that require no crescendos; experiences defined by what we encounter on the trail, not the arrival at the corral. Sometimes being lost in the wilderness is prologue to a silent arrival. The work that matters takes place out of sight but forever impacts our stories.
What if we are curious about the unexpected, courageous with our values, and contemplative about anticipated outcomes?
‘Good fences make good neighbors,’ penned Robert Frost in his poem the Mending Wall. Fences are visible demarcations of boundaries. Either to keep things in or keep things out, depending on our perspective. The lifecycle of a fence is fascinating. Newly constructed fences with upturned soil where fresh posts were recently driven, creating unnatural scars across the landscape, until the new boundary becomes part of our unconscious memory of the landscape. There are untended fences with missing pieces, abandoned fences with silhouettes of their former connections, mended fences with visible repairs and temporary structural scaffolding, and temporary fences, constructed for real-time assistance and deconstructed overnight.
I encountered a line of fence this winter where the fence posts remain, a 4-wheel track on one side and a single track on the other side. The abandoned and loose barb wire had been collected, coiled, and piled safely away from the trails. Yet, the pattern of travel remained, out of habit we dared not cross between the two paths midway down the fence line. A reminder that even after we remove the obstacles tha prevented different ways of travel, mindsets and behaviors will endure.
Just because the fence no longer exists, it may take a new generation of users to blaze a fresh path.
Seth Godin refers to Edgecraft as the furthest edge we can embrace without losing a connection to our super fans as we innovate. The feature, benefit, service must be remarkable. It is challenging to know when we have entered the realm of edgecraft . A tripwire to seek is when we start asking lots of questions. If we are on a mountain ridge, closing on the summit and dangerous weather approaches, we begin to evaluate our options. Is reaching the summit responsible? Can we get to the peak back to safety in time? How fast is danger approaching? What if we misjudge the elements, is there an alternative plan?
If we present a program or product decisions that everyone agrees represents our mission without raising anxiety and curiosity, we are not close to edgecraft. There is nothing wrong with mission centered work, we want to acknowledge it is not pushing boundaries. However, if we propose an activity that makes us uncomfortable but appears aligned with our Magnetic North (purpose, vision, mission, and values), then we might enter into robust debate. Perhaps part of our deliberation centers on the right balance between making our service better versus safer. Edgecraft is personal to every enterprise. A solo violinist is not capable of producing the same depth or sounds as an symphony. However they can be remarkable for their individual style and sound.
When have you practiced edgecraft? What were the results? How did your super fans respond? Does your community still retell the story of your edgecraft work? What questions did you ask of yourself? Why did you preserver?
If the airlines changes our departure or arrival gate, do we abort our travel plans? I like to believe we continue forward, committed to the journey. The same should be true for the cause we support. If the conditions change but the need still exists and we can be of service, why not embrace wayfinding? Let us not mistake a new route for a dead end.
If we call out an obscenity (expletive delete) at somebody, we are seeking a confrontation. It takes little effort to shout out a demeaning term and leaves few viable response options. If we say, ‘I do not agree with your choice,’ we open a dialogue. The other party might respond with a questions and we can clarify what actions are not agreeable.
Are we trying to start confrontations or conversations? Shouting obscenities might feel good in the moment but they are a lazy form of communication. Acknowledging that something does not resonate but leaving room for interpretation requires a different mindset.
If we want a fight, slander away. If we want to engage and learn, be curious about different perspectives.
Ubiquitous activities form habits. Some daily acts are not as safe or efficient was one imagines. UPS encourages its drivers to avoid left-turns. A sign I encountered (above image*) requested vehicles turn-off their headlights at night. Standing still rather than fleeing is a better defense against certain predators. All of these might feel counter-intuitive.
How often do we question our habits? Which ones continue to serve us and produce the outcomes we intend. Which acts are convenient but produce more risk or unintended outcomes? It is challenging work but sometimes the result of changing patterns are extraordinary.
* The headlight request was courtesy of the Sky Center Observatory facility on Mt. Lemmon, AZ.