OD on the Edge is a professional association of internal and external change agents in Charlotte, NC. I recently keynoted their evening meeting and learned the meaning of their association name. Effectiveness comes from having one foot inside the client organization and one foot outside. The outside perspective provides a change agent with objectivity and impartiality; the inside perspective yields understanding and empathy. Albert Einstein wrote, “You cannot change the paradigm from within the paradigm.”
Great service comes from serving on the edge. An ancient Polish proverb goes, “A guest sees more in an hour than the host in a year.” If you view the world of the customer solely from the purview of a service provider your “outsider” viewpoint can seduce you into making dangerous assumptions and flawed suppositions about customer expectations and desires. However, if you totally embrace the “insider” orientation of your customers, you risk making customer-centric but organizationally irresponsible decisions. It can lead an organization to going down in flames–being loved by their customers all the way to the bankruptcy court!
While the customer is always the customer and therefore requires our sincere respect, we customers are no more “always right” than are the organizations providing us with service. It takes a balanced view to serve customers and the organization. It requires serving on the edge.