An early (disturbingly early) morning conversation recently, on a flight bumpy with a turbulence so violent I considered the virtues of never getting on an airplane again, left me contemplating the futility of fear.
My knuckles are no longer white, but I’m left with recognition that fear is the most pervasive and toxic response we have in the human experience. And sadly, it’s woven into the fabric of the financial services industry. Can we unpick the waft and weave of fear with any degree of success? Is it something we can actually cure? I think we can; I think we must. And the one of the first stitches that merits unpicking is that of the fear of Different.
Different. Different business models, different business objectives, different ways to understand profit and long term viability of a customer value, different technology, different institutional trust, different team composition, different people, different development methodologies. Different.
The connotation of different is so damned negative. It speaks of change that disturbs, disrupts, disorients. Different connotes dearth of understanding, or perspective, or empathy. Different is dangerous.
I call bullshit on the definition of Different.
I call bullshit on how we define fear. It is absurd that we wrap fear, and fear of different, in such negative connotations, because negativity is destructive — it is not creative. Because we as an industry actually are starting to embrace the creativity of different, the creativity of fear, the positivity both of these words actually carry — but that we hide behind lazy definitions.
Because we all know fear sells.
Fear demands we be alert, that we fight or fly, that we survive. And that facet of fear, that facet we call Different, is actually about adapting to new, to finding new, to searching out more, better, unique, transformative ways of working, designing, thinking.
Fear sells. Different sells. Different does more than sell, different is a value add. And different is what this industry needs to embrace in order to survive the onslaught of challengers ready to snag customers away with different (read: new) products, services, experiences. Wrapping this industry in different means it grows, evolves, even thrives in a braver (read: facing that fear) new world that is the sum externality of rapidly changing technology, politics, and philosophy.
And if we choose to unpick the fabric of fear, and pull that thread of difference out — let us go one step further in unraveling the string itself — that string of different thread is composed of Diversity.
Diversity of perspective; of experience; of calculation; of models; of insight; of education; of gender; of race; of orientation; of understanding. The more diverse the strings, the more strength to the thread. The more power to the tapestry of this industry. The more different, delightful, dynamic the fabric we weave. The more power we harness in transforming the fear from a danger into an enabler.
Fear sells. No. No it doesn’t. Different sells. Diversity sells. And Diversity has utility. Fear is futile. So let us redefine it, embrace it, and call it something useful. Let us find the Utility of Diversity.
So to all my diverse friends, colleagues, allies and collaborators, my humble thanks for being weavers of a new tapestry, a new paradigm. My thanks for being the strongest of strings, for uniting together. For #BeingBoldTogether.