When we talk to one another, we naturally avoid unpleasant topics. Keeping the conversation in the comfort zone serves as a social lubricant, making our interactions smooth.
In business, we like to think we are uncompromising, honest and insightful when we talk about strategy and organizational issues. In reality, we also tend to stay in our comfort zones when talking to colleagues—we don’t talk about the weather, but we also don’t talk much about the unknown, the untried, and the unimaginable.
To innovate and move ahead of competitors, your business needs to be able to talk about topics that are beyond everyone’s comfort zone. Steve Jobs was famous for pushing people to “think different,” which helped the company stay ahead in innovation.
At Konza, we’ve had clients who thought one thing about their business and after one or two sessions with us, everything changed. Their mindset changed as we moved away from the comfort zone. Some have come in with a long list of how they feel their business should change while others have had the wrong idea about what it takes to turn a business around. Even Steve Jobs had to be reminded that if you can’t talk about the new, the unknown, the scary ideas, you will never think outside the box.
To unlock fresher thinking, we talk to clients about center and edge conversations. The center is the area where everybody knows what is going on. In the center, the conversation is safe and predictable—e.g who your best customers are, what the competition is up to and so on. On the edge, the conversation goes into uncultivated territory where old rules may no longer apply; the edge is risky. If the conversation stays in the center, your business will achieve incremental change at best. Change makers spend their professional lives pushing the conversation to the edge. Are you ready to have ‘edgy’ conversations in 2018?
With this kind of vocabulary, you get to talk about new and challenging ideas in a nonthreatening way. Once you know what a center idea is and what an edge idea is and are comfortable talking about the difference, you can steer the conversation toward ‘edge topics’. And then you can really delve into the challenges (and new opportunities) that you face.
For example, we showed one of our clients that talking about unchartered waters would help unlock change that was thought to be impossible. The company, a startup, had tested their ideas but needed a change in mindset by moving away from what was comfortable. This meant getting uncomfortable, undergoing a radical transformation that would fundamentally transform how it competes. This required all sorts of adjustments to new environments. Although the company is still work in progress, they STEPPED OUT and FOUND OUT.
Change is risky, and change makes people uncomfortable. But the discomfort itself is important. If you have a discussion about change that doesn’t push beyond somebody’s comfort zone, you probably aren’t talking about meaningful change. More than ever, companies need to be able to adapt quickly, embrace new methods and strategies, and move beyond today’s comfortable routines. Organizations that know how to have edge conversations have a huge advantage in this environment.
In 2018, expand your comfort zone, start talking.