Reflections from the edge

We each have our own personal “edge”. It is the point beyond which we have difficulty going. Ancient map makers used to mark areas of the world they had not explored “here be dragons”. Stephen Pressfield talks about “ The Resistance”. Seth Godin talks about “The Lizard”, and in his original ground breaking work, Tim Galwey suggested a simple equation;

Performance=Potential minus Interference

Where interference is all the things that define the edge for us – approval of others, self belief, and the internal voices of “should, must and have to”.

All of these ideas point to the same thing – our own self limiting beliefs. It is not fault, or weakness – it is largely hard wired. Much has been written elsewhere by neuroscientists, cognitive psychologists, behavioral economists and others (and if you want details, you can find summaries and book links at

I suggest for all practical purposes, we can simplify these findings into two critically important areas. Firstly, our brains are pattern making organs – we interpret our internal and external worlds into our own unique version of reality. Secondly, Evian Gordon, an “Integrative Neuroscientist” points out quite elegantly that we “walk towards reward, but run away from danger”. So, we create our own reality, and then react to that creation. That gives the “edge” formidable power.

Early years educators will point out that we have largely created our own view of the world by the time we are seven. We then take these attitudes and dispositions through education to arrive in hugely varying degrees of readiness at the threshold of the world of work.

We created formal mass education at the start of the industrial revolution with a single purpose in mind – to create the assets needed to effectively populate an industrial economy. It was spectacularly successful. Until the late twentieth century and the arrival of the Internet and its handmaiden technologies. Almost overnight, knowledge was commoditized, available worldwide to the vast majority of the global population. Alongside globalization and the pursuit of lowest cost, our manufacturing base went from local, to regional, to global within a generation. And the industrial model of education fell into disrepair every bit as much as the mill towns of northern England.

This move has fundamentally changed the rules. What used to be the foundation of a safe career – an accumulation of knowledge and process skills – has evaporated. First in manufacturing, then in lower level service jobs, and now in, well, pretty much everything that can be reduced to process. IBM’s “Watson” computer first took the quiz shop “Jeopardy” by storm, and is now a more advanced medical diagnostician than any human physician.

So now we have a reversed situation. The ability of people to imagine rather than process is at a premium. The power of insight, or intuition, or relationship is key. The very things that for the vast majority of people, have been pushed deep into the background by industrial education.

But not extinguished. For most of us, it resides just beyond the “edge”. We can relearn (again, a nod to the neuroscientists and “neuroplasticity” – our capabilities are far more flexible than we used to think)

It’s time to explore the edge. There no rules and no courses. I have been working with Myles Downey and others on exploring concepts of “Enabling Genius” – identifying and enabling the unique insights and capabilities that we all have, but which for many do not fall into the convenient labels of conventional descriptors.

The discomfort we may feel at the pace of change in the way we work may just be the key to a much brighter future for those who are prepared to explore beyond the edge.

You can see more on this on the GrowHouse blog

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