Business and life-changing growth lies in going beyond your CONTEXTUAL zones, and not just your comfort zones.
Going beyond your comfort zone would be cold DMing or cold-calling that Big Scary Enterprise Customer.
Or giving a keynote speech in front of 4,000 fellow entrepreneurs at a conference.
Piercing your comfort zone is doing something beyond your current skill set or level of courage in the realm of known knowns and known unknowns.
In other words, you're doing "more of more-or-less the same"
Going beyond your Contextual Zone is something else entirely and it's doing things that exist outside your blindspots (unknown unknowns).
Here's an example that better explains this:
I once spoke to a senior decision-maker at a large regional American food and beverage chain. Our discussion was around the thin margins, high competition and overall difficulty of operating in this space.
What could they do to generate more revenue while increasing net profit margins WITHOUT increasing capital expenditure (capex)?
Had we stayed within our existing contextual zones, we might have come up with the usual answers: extend operating hours, add higher priced menu options, downsize portion sizes, buy cheaper ingredients or cut staff.
But in expanding beyond our contextual zones, we came up with:
1/ Acting as a broker of funding relationships for other restaurants
2/ Licensing their operating model to restaurants outside their geography, including internationally (everywhere outside North America)
How did we come up with these two ideas?
First, this chain enjoyed impeccable relationships with financial institutions. I proposed that they could act as an intermediary for other restaurant chains that needed access to capital.
This food and beverage group could make the introductions and take a percentage for facilitating the transaction. It would be a win-win for the borrower, the lender and this chain.
Second, because of well-defined and honed Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), this group had far higher than average profit margin than its competitors.
I proposed they could package some (or all) of their SOPs into a specialized information product (or service) and charge a very high license fee for other restaurants who wanted to learn what made a high-margin restaurant tick.
What made this revenue engine even better was that it was extremely scalable because it was a highly niched product that could be replicated at no (or little) additional marginal cost and could be sold all over the world at the click of a button.
That's breaking out of your CONTEXTUAL zones.
If you just break out of your comfort zones (known knowns and known unknowns), you'll just be doing more of what you already know, at a higher level.
But when you break out of your contextual zones (unknown unknowns), you can completely change the game and generate highly profitable, extremely scalable opportunities that are completely invisible to your competition.
And who doesn't like having an unfair advantage?