• There are no suggestions because the search field is empty.

Comfort Zones are Dangerous

This post starts in very general terms and from a personal perspective. It moves on to more career and business-related topics. As you read this, I promise you that there will be something of value for you, your career, or your business. It ends with something that I hope is more personal for many of us.

Everyone wants to be comfortable, and I am not suggesting that comfort is undesirable. Sleeping in on a Saturday morning, your favorite meal, or a day at the beach or other favorite place all have their merits. Beyond these simple pleasures there is a broader comfort zone that relates to one’s worldview. These comfort zones have risks that can lead to substantial discomfort or worse. 

For one thing, comfort zones do not last. Whether it is a satisfying meal or job skills that were productive but are now no longer in demand, the world is not static. This is especially true in our rapidly accelerating world where we are confronted with pressures from many directions. If one tries to maintain a zone of comfort without growth and learning, that zone can collapse. Change is inevitable. 

Only through growth and learning can we advance beyond these dangers. Stepping outside one’s comfort zone is the best, if not the only way, to maintain and expand that zone. We all face and will face unknown challenges. Our ability to face those challenges comes from learning and trying new things. Taking thoughtful and calculated risks actually creates more comfort in a much broader range of situations. 

For my own perspective, hitch-hiking across the United States as a teenager (This was possible back in ancient times.), starting a real estate business while working as a scientist, founding ABS, and moving to San Diego almost 25 years ago with my businesses, which was and is in Delaware, were not initially comfortable. Today, the benefits of such activities far outweigh any transient past discomforts, and my comfort zone encompasses a much wider area. 

Disclaimer from previous paragraph: Although some of you with teenagers may wish to hand them some money and send them off across country, I am not recommending it. It may have been a dubious idea many years ago, but it is not easily possible now. Still, I am glad I did it, along with other ventures that expanded my horizons. More to the point, expanding one’s limits should be approached in a rational manner. It is rarely a good idea to bet the farm. Mistakes will be made. As long as their severity is limited, they become opportunities for growth and learning and not the catastrophes that one might imagine. 

From career and business management perspectives, the dangers of comfort zones are especially poignant. Too many careers have been upended because people did not want to leave their comfort zones. Elevator operators, video store clerks, film developers, and a plethora of others are not sought after careers. Even computer programmers or scientists who fail to keep up with the latest developments have diminished prospects for job security and advancement. AI and robotics will only hasten the need for change. Expanding one’s comfort zone is more than a path to self-actualization. It has become a necessity. 

From a management perspective, comfort zones also impede success. Often individuals are promoted to management because they are good at what they do. Proficiency in a role breeds comfort. That is understandable and to be expected. The issue occurs when one settles into that comfort zone and does not move effectively into a new zone that encompasses their new roles. This is particularly the case with some managers, who upon promotion, continue to do the jobs of their staff. This keeps them in their old comfort zone and lessens their effectiveness as managers. They can create an uncomfortable and difficult situation for themselves and their direct reports because they have failed to grow into a leadership role. 

From a business perspective, failing to move out of the standard comfortable way of doing business can spell disaster. Many businesses that failed to do so no longer exist. All of us know many examples such as Borders Books & Music, Blockbuster, Toys R Us, Tower Records, CompUSA, Circuit City, and a very long list of others. These were replaced by more innovative companies such as Apple, Amazon, Netflix, and Dell. Those are companies that moved beyond what were known and comfortable ways of doing business. 

Both otherwise innovative early stage and large bioscience companies also continue to employ comfortable approaches to doing business. Rather than focusing on their core value propositions, they set up and replicate facilities that are within their comfort zone. They set up cell culture labs to expand and bank cells. They set up biobanks to acquire samples. They set up facilities for long-term sample storage. These are known and comfortable activities. This was the way that science had been done. 

The way things have been done is no longer effective. Having staff work on cell scale up, acquiring human biospecimens, or sample storage are ineffective allocations of valuable resources and talent. It makes far more sense to focus on discovery than on these prerequisites for discovery. For an innovative organization, that is where the true value lies. 

Working with ABS frees your organization to move faster and with less risk because you can rely on our 34+ years of experience and expertise to accomplish your goals. Abraham Lincoln is quoted as saying: “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the ax.” To shift the metaphor a bit, let us sharpen your ax so that you can focus on making discoveries. Let ABS be an extension of your laboratories. 

At the beginning of this post, I promised you something of value. I hope that the foregoing delivered on that promise, but I want to offer more. What is happening to many in this world is far more threatening than comfort zones. For the first ten individuals, who email ABS with the words World Kitchen in the subject line, we will send you a $25 Amazon gift card. For those and all other emails that we receive with that subject line we will donate $25 to World Kitchen for their worldwide relief efforts up to a total of $1,000. Thank you! 

Share this article


Subscribe Here!