“Out on the edge, you see all kinds of things you can’t see from the centre.”
• Kurt Vonnegut
Are you ready to be uncomfortable? As change leaders, we are after all in the business of challenging the status quo. Yes to discomfort? You’re up for that? Then let’s begin – we’re off to the edge!
What is the edge? How do we bring ourselves there? And why are we seeking the edge anyway?
Edges signify change
Whenever there’s change, there’s an edge. An edge can put you in front of the competition. Having an edge can mean maintaining a lead or advantage.
Another type of an edge involves being at the frontier of something new, a point or state immediately before something uncomfortable or momentous, the place between the known and unknown; the current and the new. It can be represented by a line or a point – or even a seeming abyss.
Edges imply growth
The edge marks the threshold between what we know of our strengths, knowledge, and confidence, and what we need to step into as a leader, team or organization in a new way of being that wants to emerge. It is the edge that has us seek deeper meaning.
Edges are uncomfortable
At the edge, we might notice edgy behaviour from ourselves and others – silence, fidgeting, laughing, looking away or down, telling jokes or talking too much. Beneath these behaviours are emotions such as fear, excitement, anxiety, frustration, exhilaration, overwhelm, confusion. Whether thrilling or scary at the edge, or a mix of both, there’s discomfort.
Edges require courage
Stepping up to the edge is uncomfortable. It takes courage to step into and acknowledge discomfort, and to bring the curiosity required to explore the discomfort and risk being vulnerable. We must find the courage to delve into the deep purpose of why we want change. We risk exposing our hearts.
“Life is a travelling to the edge of knowledge, then a leap taken.”
• D.H. Lawrence
Those that seek the edge understand that is the place where we learn. In a world of change, we have the opportunity to seek the edge and grow through the discomfort of change with awareness. In this way, we courageously and intentionally transform ourselves, our teams, and our organizations.
“What good is a dream that doesn’t test the mettle of the dreamer? What good is a path that doesn’t carry us to the edge of our capacity and then beyond that place?”
• Michael Meade
The edge is the place of potential growth, which must be crossed if new ways of being are to emerge. At the edge, we have the potential to break into an emerging market, to create a gender-diverse organization, grow a family business into a community business, or to merge companies together. In crossing the edge, we as change leaders pioneer possibility.
Kerry Woodcock, Ph.D., coaches pioneers and influencers to amplify the power of relationship and lead over the edge of change. As Principal of Novalda, she develops change leadership capability in organizations and social systems.
Question | Can you recall a time when exploring an edge brought rewards?