As we sense our way into a post-industrial era, the boundaries that used to keep us safe and secure seem to be dissolving.

Specialisms that defined us, from accountancy, through coaching and law to Yoga instructors (I couldn’t find an occupation beginning with Z that worked), now all have much more permeable edges.

I know accountants who get their work primarily because of their coaching prowess. There’s an interesting thread on LinkedIn around the nature and role of coaching and whether fees can remain a service disconnected from the resultant operational realities of clients. Lawyers who have to learn different ways of relating to clients when the profitable routine tasks are becoming automated, and Yoga instructors who are finding their ability to help clients think and see differently is opening up whole new fields of opportunity.

Boundaries are important. Without them, we have no identity, and if they are too strong and prevent us from absorbing new information, we find ourselves suddenly displaced as the world around us changes without us noticing until it’s too late. For us to thrive, we need permeable edges.

Permeability is uncomfortable. It means we constantly have to learn new ideas, techniques and technologies, all of which have the potential to upend our world. I’ve just been to my local city centre for the first time in months for a haircut, and the High Street and Shopping Centre are in a sorry state. We knew that retail was changing, but so many of those empty shops are testament to a belief it would happen in a gentle and somehow manageable way. The Pandemic changed that as it broke open boundaries, and we changed so many habits quickly.

I came away thinking that many coaches would do well to learn hairdressing. Regular clients, whose attention you have for a reasonable period, and where a coach/hairdresser could add value way above the chit chat about holidays we’re not going to take for some time yet. If you want to take the pulse of a commercial centre, talk to a hairdresser. Their practical appraisal if often far better than the theory of consultants (and cheaper)

Whatever our occupation, technology and changing ways of working are eroding all the assumptions we made when we set out.

An entrepreneurial spirit is increasingly required not to move into new areas but to stay productively in the ones we’re already in. If we’re not pushing boundaries, we will end up like those retailers.

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