Jeff Judy

Jeff's Thoughts - June 27, 2007

Comfortable? That's too bad . . .

Sometimes, at a banking school, I can tell what kind of market, what kind of customers, what kinds of transactions a banker usually works with by looking at which classes that participant has signed up for.

How do I know? Many people, maybe most, sign up for more of what they already know. They stay in their comfort zones, maybe stretching a teeny bit, but really sticking to territory they already know well.

And it isn't just, say, commercial lenders or credit analysts. Board members somehow manage to avoid some of the nuts-and-bolts courses, sticking to topics they are already discussing in the boardroom. Even non-banking companies I consult with that have financial services functions — perhaps they support dealers and distributors of their products in managing credit risk among customers — often prefer to hear something just slightly new about the same old stuff.

That may feel good, but it probably doesn't advance your career or help your organization. Everyone will be better off if you have the courage to occasionally be the one in the room who doesn't know as much about a topic.

You can probably think of the most obvious benefits yourself:

If you're spending your (or your organization's) money to confirm what you already know and float in your comfort zone, you're probably wasting the investment. The difference between doing variations on your favorite themes and actually adding new knowledge is much like the difference between growing vs. just putting on weight.

Get a little uncomfortable now and get ahead, later, as a result.

Once you start learning about something new, watch out! You might even enjoy it!