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.
The world’s largest iceberg just formed. It is remarkable for its size (larger than the Spanish island of Mallorca). The moment it separated from the ice shelf in Antarctica, the countdown timer begins on its title defense. It will be overtaken by a bigger iceberg, divided into multiple smaller icebergs, or eventually melt. Its fate as the former largest iceberg is inevitable.
When we try to retain a title as largest, biggest, fastest, best-funded, etc., we hang our competitive advantage on a flimsy flag pole. It might stand tall and be covered in spotlights, but our flag looks out of place, antiquated, and even irrelevant once it is surpassed. That is why some companies invest in achieving the title of ‘best place to work.’ It reflects their organizational culture and values. The best place to work is more challenging to create but sustainable when the community believes in its collective strength; it is not a finish line but an enduring journey.
Is your enterprise trying to win by metrics or invest in human experiences? The number of large retailers that were once ubiquitous and now obsolete might provide a narrative about the staying power of those who scale first. Then there are those remarkable causes that continue to deliver on a promise that is not easy to measure but is profoundly evident in every interaction.
When we highlight an opportunity that contains tension, we are captivated by the narrative that follow. A single blade of grass is less remarkable when found on a lawn. Place the grass pushing through a broken section of asphalt and the struggle creates tension. We are uncertain of the outcome and more likely to be captivated by the journey.
We might incorporate the same mindset in our planning. The outcome of a shopping run to the grocery store is low risk. A strategic plan that considers an initiative that might transform a community increases the tension. Our fans are engaged when we share goals that are resonate but not common and repetitive. We are working on addressing problems that are challenging to solve. What is our role in the solution?
It is easy to stare at a screen and say, ‘I could do that.’ Very few of us either attempt the action or have the opportunity to try. We see coverage of hurricane and think we would survive the storm surge. We watch winter olympians and think we could replicate their talents. We see entrepreneurs succeed and think they just beat us to identifying of a good idea that was easy to scale. We see nonprofit organizations and think anyone can give away a service for free.
So here is a chance to try. Navigate a cargo ship through the Suez Canal and see if you have what is takes to become the ship’s captain.
We might be right about our assumptions with limited data. However, if the data set expands we may discover a different answer. How might we conclude when we have sufficient information to make our best decisions? What would an outsider conclude using the same data? Our goal is not to be certain but rather to remain curious. A better understanding of our world means we can better do the work that matters.
Measuring cups are essential resources for cooks, mixologists, and scientist. They are cornerstones of a kitchen, bar, and lab. Remarkable functionality and easy to use. Except when they are not.
Measuring cups have a lifespan. The uniform scale erodes from sight, they break, or get lost. Suddenly we are confronted with the reality that we must perform a skill that once was automatic.
The same is true with the individuals on our team. The highly reliable and omnipresent volunteer that filled a key position moves away. The Board Chair who served sensationally for years announces it is time for succession. A sustaining donor develops a new passion and shifts their considerable contributions towards a different enterprise.
We take for granted the utility of the reliable. How might it benefit our efforts if we think aloud, ‘I wonder what would happen if….?’ Perhaps the succession plan is obvious and the next individual is ready to ride. Or, we see challenging terrain ahead that we must navigate before reaching stability again. Celebrate the utility of the marvelously positioned individual but remember their tenure is not without limits. Be ready to adapt and adopt when needed.
Click the link above to listen to one of the more remarkable Hidden Brain podcasts, featuring Adam Grant, discussing his new book, Think Again.
Ask intriguing questions and people want better answers. If we challenge people’s views head-on, individuals tend to assume one of three modes: preacher, politician, or prosecutor. However, if we show curiosity in other people’s search as they reconsidering their point of view, we can go on a collective journey. We are seeking common ground which allows for greater flexibility. “How” questions tend to create a more open-minded and curious response with a shared dialogue. It is about the work, and the questions provide an opportunity to iterate after our first thought/draft.