“Ask forgiveness over permission.”
This has been a common ‘corporate policy’ for most of the startups I’ve worked with. It’s a no risk, no reward mindset that allows individuals on a team to test their ideas and create momentum without the delay waiting on permission to move forward. It fosters an environment where talented people can produce their best works by failing faster and learning through experience.
I’ve seen this company culture work great with capable people who are mission-oriented and have the company’s values in their best interest.
But how does this mindset work when applied outside a company culture, out there in the wild?
The journey in finding the boundaries.
When a Company Handbook isn’t available and boundaries are unknown, as they often are while traveling, an effective way to learn the limits is by pushing the limits until something/one pushes back. Common sense goes a long way here. If it feels right, leap before you look!
Early in my mission of partnering with a cricket farmer, my brother challenged me to find and ‘research’ the company Thailand Unique – a top contributor in the entomophagy movement. I sent the company some emails but after hearing nothing but crickets, I decided to take advantage of the physical address I found on their website. A flight and scooter rental later I found myself (a curious enthusiast) on their front door. Intrusive? Perhaps. Effective? Definitely! Scored an hour interview with the founder, toured their facility, and left with an armload of products samples. Good thing they didn’t reply to my email.
Eliminating the process of getting permission increases speed and diversity in many of ways. Though blatantly ignoring rules or boundaries often only leads to the destruction of a potentially fruitful endeavor. So without a guide to look to, it’s wise to get a good understanding of boundaries and be respectful not to cross them (too far). A greater understanding of where the boundaries builds confidence to charge forward without permission and mitigates the risk of finding yourself in a place of needing to ask for forgiveness.
Whoops, too late.
When you’re pushing boundaries, it’s important to know what to do when you’ve gone too far.
If you break something, fix it—like yo’ momma taught’cha! Owning your mistakes, or someone else’s, give you power over the situation and the opportunity to correct them. Sometimes I’ll even intentionally go too far just so I can step in and fix it to get more involved.
Acknowledging you’re in the wrong, admitting your ignorance, respectfully apologizing and create a comical situation out of the wrongdoing is an effective combo to diffuse a tense situation.
Choose your own route.
What I love about rock climbing is there are no rules, just one mission – get to the top. Advice from a friend never hurts, but imagine needing to ask for permission before reaching for a new hold. Just going for it! It’s the quickest way to learn your personal limits and find out what you need to work on.
Operating with this risk/reward mindset broadens the narrow constraints that standard protocol often puts on us. So with a good knowledge of what the rules and boundaries are, we can mindfully act in a way that doesn’t necessarily go against the grain yet offers more freedom and creativity to define our own path. Oh right, and it’s way more fun :)