Working the edge is better than the middle

By Scot Herrick | Cube Rules Commentary

Aug 02

The edge is a daunting place. You stand on the edge of a cliff and you are so very close to falling. The edge at the top of a roller coaster is right where the pause is before the big fall. The edge of a knife is dangerous, but the precise place to use to cut food for dinner.

Working for corporations have edges as well. The edge is where new projects are initiated. The edge is the new business area the company wants to work. The edge is the new product release that will bring in revenue. Working the edge in a corporation is dangerous business as well — projects get canceled, new business areas don’t work out and products fail.

Despite the risks, the edge is where you want to be working in a company.

The middle is where the layoffs occur

Working in that nice, safe business process means you are entirely a cost to the corporation. Sure, your work is important, your work function has value, but it is all a cost. What do businesses try and do with costs? Reduce them, improve them, and combine them. All in an effort to reduce the cost and improve the productivity of the function.

In short, your job is always in jeopardy. Always at a risk for layoff from the improvements or for outsourcing. Because your company’s goal is to minimize the cost of the middle where everything is known and standardized.

The edge is where change occurs

When corporate executives get together to figure out the next big thing, they initiate projects to bring about the next big thing. In other words, they are now working the edge and need people to help push that edge to success.

The edge gives you visibility to the future in the company. The edge gives you a constant learning environment to bring about change. The edge gives you new job skills to learn and put in practice. Working the edge means the company thinks you are a person who can take the company to the future it needs. And working the edge gives you the stuff to put on a resume that helps you market yourself to other companies, regardless of what happens at your current company.

Working the edge is not easy; it requires a great deal of working with ambiguity, without structure and with no clear direction. But working the edge is better than working the middle.

Are you working at the change points in your organization?

Photo by The Ewan

  • Pras says:

    What about factoring in the risks and challenges of the edge. I think you mentioned in a previous post about taking on new projects can be overatted. This is because if that project ends or gets cut early you could be out of a job despite taking the extra effort or step.

    But I guess thats the risk vs reward aspect.

  • Scot Herrick says:

    The taking on of new projects outside of your normal work is, indeed, overrated because it takes you away from the core of your work. In relation to this article, you would be taking on projects while working from the middle rather than the edge. Your job is under attack for reducing costs and increasing efficiency and then on top of it, you are working on a project that is outside your work area. That increases your risk.

    This article is more about having a position that puts you on the edge of new programs, products and markets. Perhaps a different way of putting it would be to work in positions as close to the customer as possible or in positions what will most affect end customers rather than internal ones. Your entire job is on the edge, not part of it.

    But you are correct in that there are risks working there as well — projects can get canceled, programs modified or new business areas shut down. But the fact that you are working in these areas means your job skills are honed to the change part of the business, not the maintain part of the business. That looks much better on a resume.

    Good connection, Pras. Thanks for making the comment.

  • Rick Saia says:

    Good post, Scot! It's on the edge – or periphery – where things happen, where you can make a difference, and where you can develop new skills that can make you an in-house expert who becomes more indispensable than if you had stayed in the middle.

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