"I want to stay as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you will see all kinds of things you can't see from the center." -- Kurt Vonnegut
For humans who love speed, racing down a ski hill with the ability to execute a true carve is one of a life’s most enjoyable activities. Ripping down a slope on the edges of your skis isn’t just for show, you’ll be able to go faster while staying in control.
True edge-to-edge turning allows a skier to put their ski on the edges just enough that when they start turning the skis will cut into the snow and not slide or drift.
Few have ridden on the edge better than Lindsey Vonn. She is the greatest American skier — and it's not even close. Her world-class ability allows her to find paths down a hill that balance the pull of the fall line against the gates she has to clear at excessive speed.
Vonn's style requires riding on the ragged edge between speed and madness. Nathaniel Vinton, the author of a book about the US ski team’s rise to dominance entitled “The Fall Line,” writes: “Only the best racers have the strength and self-control to cut inside [the paths of other competitors] and go even straighter, even faster, and even closer to the fall line and all its promise of glory and destruction.”
Glory and destruction. Out on the edge without going over.
Lewis Hamilton, the British Formula One driver for Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport, is a five-time F1 World Champion and currently leads the standings. Hamilton is considered the best driver of his generation and widely regarded as one of the greatest drivers in the history of the sport.
So how does a driver win five times when all other drivers and teams operate under the same F1 regulations? The word "formula" in the F1 name refers to the set of rules all participants' cars must conform. F1 cars are the fastest and most regulated road-course racing cars in the world. Appropriately operated, the vehicles ensure high cornering speeds by the generation of large amounts of aerodynamic downforce. Without this downforce, the cars would literally fly away. An F1 driver is looking for speed while ensuring enough traction to stay on the ground.
Hamilton is one of the most complete drivers on the global grand prix circuit. Hamilton can adapt to various car set-ups and changing track conditions like few others. Plus, he typically uses less fuel than his teammates meaning less weight thus increasing his ability to carry momentum through corners despite instability in the car.
Handling the corners at speed is essential for championships, so the real edge that Lewis has is his sensitivity and managing aerodynamic downforce. His smooth touch means that he can operate his car closer to the edge of traction without losing control and pace throughout the corners. Few drivers can perform with so much deft and carry fast cornering speeds.
Championships and instability. Out on the edge without going over.
Being on the edge is not limited to athletic pursuits; operating on the edge is where great ideas percolate. Great ideas come from the edge of our thinking, our mind, and our experiences.
Kevin Roberts, former CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi and author of "Lovemarks - The Future Beyond Brands," writes: "When species change, it almost always occurs first at the fringes. Here the population is most sparse and our orthodoxies of the center are weakest. Here you can flourish isolated from formula and rules, free from the corrosive belief that everything great has already been done."
One company not believing that everything great has occurred is IDEO. Per their website, this global design and consulting firm, founded in Palo Alto, California, creates "positive impact through design." From designing the first manufacturable mouse for Apple to advancing the practice of human-centered design, IDEO is at the forefront of creating change through design.
IDEO creates change through design by a practice called "empathy on the edge." This human-centered approach seeks those who live on the edge. In their fieldwork, the company looks for diverse people and situations to promote empathy, which they internally refer to as “extremes.”
These mostly ordinary people with extreme points of view—owing to their personality, circumstances, or culture—provide a broad range of experiences and well-developed perspectives that would be harder to identify if they looked at a random sample of individuals representing a range of the target demographics.
“The future is already here; it’s just not evenly distributed,” as science-fiction novelist William Gibson is said to have observed. To innovate, IDEO believes we need to understand the intriguing, exciting, and
lesser-known fringes of society, where the future is already at play.
Why? Because as Mika Pantzar suggests the extremes prompt us to discover new meanings and interpretations for old things which can help us determine how best to incorporate the latest technologies and use practices into our work.
The power of the edge is undeniable.
Embracing the edge is about freedom, interesting people, and championships.
Out on the edge without going over. Find it.
Marc A. Ross specializes in global communications for leaders working at the intersection of globalization, disruption, and politics.