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?
Thirty degrees at 7 PM and snow appears on the roadside as I near Bogus Basin Ski Area. I have been riding uphill for 14 miles and not spied another cyclist, which is remarkable because there is always another velo enthusiast on this route. A vest, rain jacket, long fingered gloves, and cycling cap rest in my jersey pocket, ready to add micro-layers of protection during the thirty-minute descent. There is no official turn-around point on this ride. Temperature and road conditions are the guiding parameters. Finally, I encounter sheets of water running across the road and decide I do not need to be wet and cold, and the ascent stops and the return to the valley floor begins.
I have traveled this route over one hundred times by bike. Tonight’s effort stood out because I was alone and the temperature. It joined hallmark memories, like the thunderstorm that pounced so quickly that I turned around one-minute from the summit, afraid for my safety and without disappointment that I had not reached the top. Or, the time I loaned my jacket to a freezing cyclist from Arizona who rode up the mountain unprepared for Idaho’s fall weather. Then there was the cow that stood in the road on a blind corner. On the descent, I missed striking this oblivious bovine because I decided to try a different high-speed line around the corner.
The moments on edge are the ones that stand out. The ascents and descents that fall somewhere in the range of normal are forgotten, even when recorded in a training log. Our own edge provides a conduit into an inner conversation about what we value and believe.
Today, what opportunities do we have to visit our edge?
I sat next to a pilot from United Airlines on a recent trip. He was about to upgrade from flying Boeing 767 aircrafts to the 777 model. The 777 allows for greater range and more passengers. He was excited as this was a sign of greater seniority and higher pay despite the demand of additional training and time.
After the flight I was thinking about the consequences of his upgrade. Larger planes means more passengers. More passengers means higher population densities. Typically the bigger the planes and the more passengers the higher the likelihood that it will be routed between major cities. London, New York, Hong Kong, Tokyo, etc. Many pilots start on small regional aircrafts, connecting disperse cities that are not economical to serve with a larger plane. The more an aviator progresses professionally the more they fly higher demand routes.
Becoming larger does not lend itself to the art of exploring edges. An Airbus A380 (550-800 passengers) is rarely going to find itself anywhere but one of the largest airports in the world. It is easy to aspire towards a bigger structure, with more people involved, and great recognition. However, we may be sacrificing the niche we fill so beautifully. Do not mistake the value of a bush plane networking remote villages with a transoceanic flight delivering yet more people between populations capitals.
Being small, nimble, and remote is tough to duplicate and immediately remarkable. There are many organizations serving the masses anonymously.