An Edgewalker, according to a book by that name just written by Judi Neale, is defined this way:
They’re the first people to volunteer to head up a new business unit, lead a cross-company initiative, or take on an overseas assignment. They’re the glass half-full folks, who are constantly thinking “out of the box,” forging alliances with colleagues in other departments, seeking out new solutions to old problems, and anticipating challenges on the horizon. And in today’s increasingly diverse workplaces, they are often people who have pursued unusual educational and career paths, traveled widely, and speak more than one language. Judi Neal has a term for these people: Edgewalkers. Literally, an Edgewalker is someone who walks between two worlds.
I haven’t read the book yet but it seems to me from her web site that the author is focused on several different roles in the workforce. I find I’m more interested in how Edgewalkers might behave in society in general. My term for them has been ‘deviant bees’. I feel that I am one; either a deviant bee or an Edgewalker. I really like the term Edgewalker though. (Find out if you are an Edgewalker by completing Judi’s questionnaire)
I see them as the people who walk the edge between the known and the unknown in any community. You could be one in your profession, in your community, your family – in any group really, where the known is trying to grow into the unknown. A friend of mine has always been great at trying out new things that are available on the market. I admire that trait in her and sometimes wish I had it. It see it as an adventurous quality in her whereas I tend to wait until something has been around for a while, until I get used to seeing it around and someone else has tried it, and then I decide that maybe I’d like to have one.
I think I walk the edge in other spheres though. My sphere is the spiritual/emotional side of life. Sometimes I feel that I’m so avant-guard that what I’m looking at doesn’t even have words to describe it yet. I like being in that weird territory, even though it isn’t always comfortable. I’m willing to risk people not understanding me, or even ostracizing me in some situations because somehow it’s worth it. It’s where I live. It’s home in some strange way.
I don’t imagine that true Edgewalkers try to be what they are. It just happens because of the way they look at the world. I don’t even imagine that you could recruit people to be a part of that group. You either came wired that way at birth or you didn’t.
Judi says on her web site that she thought there were very few Edgewalkers in the workforce and that they need to be more appreciated but she got a flood of feedback from people at her talks saying that they felt that she was being biased towards the role and neglecting others. To her surprise more people than she expected thought they were Edgewalkers, many of them just in some areas and not others.
In the course of my research, I came across a group in the US called BlogHer. These are women bloggers, blogging about everything under the sun. I found one a few days ago and I’ll link you to it here. This BlogHer was talking about what she refers to as the ‘S-word’ in business. ‘S’ being spirituality. She carefully defines it as ‘not religion’ and says that businesses would do well to acknowledge that it is important to a number of employees, and even customers. I’m paraphrasing but my take on it is that businesses will ignore it at their peril.
When I was in the business world in the 80s, and even in the 90s, if you mentioned anything spiritual, you immediately and automatically lost credibility. Many of the issues I work with are related to what we see as spirituality, although I don’t think they are truly limited to that area. It’s just a catch-all label for a bunch of things we’re not yet comfortable talking about in the world of work. Business ethics and personal integrity, values, fears about illness and incapacitation, death, birth, marriage, friendship, self worth and meaning; I think all of these are very much related to our spiritual outlook in life. They may also relate to our religious beliefs and practices but not only to those.
This ‘S’ area, for lack of a better term, is what interests me. How does it affect how we work and what we work on, with whom and how well? I don’t think human beings work optimally without meaning, and meaning is derived from many things. Just wanting more money in order to buy more security and more material things seems a mean and limiting expectation of what motivates us.
I’m hoping that we’re going to get fed up with being on the often fear-ridden, material treadmill and seek something with richer meaning. I hope that we demand more of our jobs and our relationships at work. Given how much time we spend there and how influential our work environments are on our lives, I hope that we can do better than we have been doing. I suspect that there are a growing number of people who are getting fed up, or we wouldn’t have so many home-based businesses, children being home-schooled, or even people retiring early in order to do something that holds more meaning for them.
I celebrate walking on the edge, in whatever capacity we do it. I found a post card years ago that read:
If you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much space.