Venturing into uncertain situations is always risky, but too much allegiance to the status quo could put us on the road to stagnation.
Breakthroughs happen when we have the guts to try something different
In the late 1990’s the music business was in a tailspin. A renegade hacker created a file-sharing program called Napster, and fans were downloading free music from the Internet faster than you could say back in the USSR.
Steve Jobs, Apple’s founder and visionary, leaned into the problem and the iPod music player and iTunes music store were born – creating a whole new legal (and profitable) distribution model for the music business. That paradigm shift would never have happened, of course, if Jobs saw Apple as simply a computer company.
Becoming a player in the music industry meant Apple had to get in the ring with hard-driving record executives, difficult artists, and fans who had become accustomed to getting their music for free. Not a comfortable place to be if you’re risk averse.
Jobs’ gutsy vision helped etch Apple’s name in history, but back then the success of his bold move was anything but certain.
Playing it safe can lead to missed opportunities
In business, considering the challenges of any unfamiliar terrain can be daunting. So we choose to stay where we are and stick with what we already know. After all, that’s worked for us so far.
When we’re in a sales slump, we keep depending on familiar approaches and tactics—even when they’re not getting us where we want to go.
In general, when we’re facing a challenge we cling to the tried and true instead of giving a chance to something that’s fresh and new. We fall back on our usual routines in the face of uncomfortable social situations as well.
Personal conflicts make us anxious, so we shut down and avoid them. Or else we react with frustration and anger, which usually makes things worse.
But what if we move beyond our comfort zone into those uninviting situations?
We might have to expose our vulnerability or share something about ourselves we’d rather keep private. We might even have to see ourselves fail ineptly. But more often than not, that risk is worth it.
When things run smoothly we don’t notice opportunities for innovation, team building, or cultivating deeper relationships with clients or colleagues. But when problems arise, we’re suddenly aware of what’s not working. We see the difficulties and feel the conflict.
But let’s recognize also that friction brings traction, connection, and engagement – a real chance to build and create.
Tacking through rough water and emotional weather always takes more effort than sailing calm, friendly seas. It’s in those unfamiliar waters, though, that a different relationship with people and problems comes about –and breakthroughs happen.