The merits of discomfort (& 7 uncomfortable ideas).

We’re neurally wired to move from a place of chaos to a place of calm. When something hurts, we mobilise forces to stop it, repair it, take away the pain. When there’s a stone in our shoe, we’re inclined to sort it out, quickly, because the discomfort isn’t something we enjoy tolerating. When we’re hungry, we seek out tucker. To move from imbalance to homeostasis. From aggravation to placation. Discomfort makes us move.

And when it comes to strategy, movement’s a good thing.

Like the frog in the slowly warming pot, our days operating head-down bum-up within our business won’t always alert us to the impending dangers, the “disruptive” forces that might be about to shirtfront us. We might smell the faintest traces of smoke, but while we’re toiling with focus in an otherwise comfortable pattern, the alarm that signals the shark in the water doesn’t always ring until it’s too late.

Why not then deliberately bring some discomfort in your business? Gift your organisation's future the upside of provocation, of a rib poke to awaken you to the forces marching to Helms Deep?

For your next planning workshop or strategy conversation…

  • Move the point-of-difference conversation beyond thoughts on “our current competitors” and confront the reality that tomorrow, it’s everyone that can (and wants to) take your customers away (so where and how might we fit in the new landscape of those trying to woo our amours?)
  • Have the team study or present on broader forces, trends, innovations or terrain changes than those you think have immediate impact on your business (even those you can’t yet see the connection with).
  • Stop talking about your Purpose, your Vision, your Values, as soft words in a picture frame on the wall that you’re quietly embarrassed to give much air time to. Lead the way on being OK with these being your religion, your tattoos (and ones you’re going to talk about and showcase, frequently, because they are the only reasonyou're doing what you're doing)
  • Get into a physical space that is the antithesis of the space you did your last workshop in (same ol’ whiteboard perpetuates same ol’ thought paradigms). Make it a little uncomfortable. “On edge” is valuable.
  • Focus on the things that will get the dump button. New ideas might flow, but working through the wolf pack of comfort actions you’ll cull? Uncomfortable.
  • Diarise a proportionate amount of time immediately after the “what we’ll do”session (same day? next day?) to have the team “get going on doing it”. No waltzing straight back into comfort zones. No retreating. Baking the cake then starting to eat it immediately. Making the Velveteen Rabbit real.
  • Bring in an agitator. Someone that will make the crew a bit uneasy, take them to mental places they don’t necessarily love (but will help them challenge any sacred bovines in your business, get synapses firing and catalyse movement). Doesn’t need to be a consultant – could be a customer, an anti-customer, a competitor, a supplier, an other-department head, the cleaner. Just not someone who’ll feed them more of the party line they hear each day.

We fight disruption, both as suppliers and consumers, because the pace of change makes us uncomfortable. But it's that very discomfort that makes us move. That’s why disruption gets so many votes. Because mobile folk are easier  and more likely to get on a new bus than stationary in-the-groove folk.

Want your team disrupting, moving, engaging with new ways, improved models, with better strategy for tomorrow?

Make them uncomfortable.

If you don't, the market will.

And the market doesn't love them like you do.

(Strategy & planning workshop facilitation, access to a diverse & deep pool of smart strategists, and holding the keys to a funky provocative space to challenge the old (with a coffee machine... I'm not a savage...) - visit or email me for a confidential chat about challenging your organisation's future before one is consigned to you).