Many years ago, I learned a training/facilitation protocol we simply call Comfort/Risk/Danger.
When working with a team, the protocol helps them, based loosely around whatever it is they are trying to accomplish and what kind of work it entails, to share what things put them as individuals in the comfort zone, the risk zone, or the danger zone.
For instance, some team members will be totally comfortable with public speaking; for others, it feels dangerous. For some, crunching numbers is comfortable; for others, it would be a risk. Some find conflict dangerous; some find it risky. And, we all know those who are a little too comfortable with it.
But, we need speakers; we need numbers people; we need people who create, manage, and support effective conflict. And, we cannot afford for those skill sets to reside with one person or in one department. It’s too easy for them to get marginalized, or to go away completely. Some element of each has to be part of a broader culture.
So, as the protocol helps demonstrate, building an effective team cannot just be about capitalizing on what everyone is already good at (i.e. what puts them in the comfort zone). Creating a team is about learning how to support a pervasive element of risk.
Humans learn better when there is some level of risk. In the risk zone, we are stretching, challenging ourselves, and actively asking questions and seeking solutions. When we are comfortable, on the other hand, we are surrounded by what we already know. We aren’t actively learning. When we are in danger, we aren’t learning either (social, emotional, and professional danger; not just physical). Fight or flight kicks in. We shut down, seek relief, and avoid (or project our danger onto others).
After starting in education, Zeumo has now pivoted to be a mobile solution for hospital communications. As we line up our new sites and support the teams who are rolling it out, Comfort/Risk/Danger are in play for all involved.
How do we launch a new product in a new market in a way that doesn’t put those of us at Zeumo in danger? How do we support each other’s risk in advancing the product, learning from our early clients, and lining up future sales?
How do we offer a new mobile communication technology for hospitals that doesn’t put physicians, nurses, or hospital administration in danger? How do we best support them as they address their own systemic communication challenges?
How do we help improve communications and communication workflows as risk, not as danger? How do we articulate, and present through our product, sufficient value and ease of use that adoption seems obvious and the learning curve is relatively flat?
The problem of communication in hospitals is clear and has been identified and acknowledged by every leader we have spoken with: too many channels; too much noise; too little strategy. The challenge of implementation, assuming the technology works (which it does), largely rests in the culture of learning in the hospital and facilitated by hospital leadership.
To create such a culture, to be such a leader, and to leverage new technologies – to be a learning organization – is just risky.