What If? Why Not? Who Says?

I would like to visit Umpqua Bank.

Sounds nerdy I'm sure. It is not an amusement park or a tourist attraction. I don't know anyone who has an account there. From what I have read, I am sure I would like to visit. Not to open an account; I suppose I could start an account online. However, Umpqua Bank sounds like the kind of place you have to experience because it's a game changer.

Umpqua Bank operates as a retailer. Bank branches are called "stores." In years past, the bank's creative customer service strategies have ranged from releasing a CD of local artists to its "lemonaire" campaign, which provided children with startup capital and a lemonade kit to support small business and charities. A location in Portland is described as having a hotel-style lobby with flat-screen TVs, where you have access to Umpqua brand coffee and free WiFi. Sort of sounds like banking at my local Starbucks. It doesn't stop there. Free events at each "store" invite customers to choose from a variety of offerings such as a baby social hour, movie night, or yoga. And Umpqua knows banking, with profits increasing 89 percent in the first quarter of 2012.

What if, in order to stand out from the crowd, a community bank decided to engage in the lives of its customers beyond bank loans and standard accounts? What if?

"What if?" is one of my favorite questions, along with "why not? and "who says?" Personally and professionally, it works this way. When considering certain situations, speculations, or obstacles, the first question is, "What if things could be done differently or seen from another angle?" or "What if assumptions need to be challenged, examined or verified?" Then ask, "Why not consider certain possibilities?" And lastly, "Who says it cannot be done or what would hinder the scenarios or possibilities? Has it been tried before?" These are baseline questions to step back from circumstances and consider what is possible.

Times of change are full of possibilities. A line from the TV show The X- Files says, "A dream is the answer to a question we have not yet learned to ask." Part of my work is helping people ask questions and consider possibilities during times of transition. This is not a plug for business. It is context. It's the reality of what attracts me to the work of helping people and projects transform from confusion to clarity, idea to implementation, from dream to development. It is why I want to visit Umpqua Bank.

Times of change can also be full of fear. I know fear well. I was the type of kid you could not leave alone in a room for too long. I would run out of the room screaming for dear life. "What if?" was not a very comforting question then.

Our mental movies can play out horrible scenarios, especially in times of transition. It is no secret our world has shifted from an industrial revolution to a digital one. Global and disruptive shifts challenge the delivery of services and products, while redefining the workforce. Pardon this necessary statement of the obvious. Because what is not so obvious is where we are going. Whether real or imagined, it can feel as though we are running for our lives on a treadmill of fear.

It's time to get our bearings. Change does not have to be overwhelming. I like the way Alan Webber says it in his book, Rules of Thumb:

These are extraordinary times. In our work, our lives, and everything in between we are witnessing change that is so fast and unpredictable that our first challenge is simply to make sense of it. [...] The time has come to rethink, reimagine, and recalibrate what is possible, what is desirable, what is sustainable. It's time to rewrite the rules.

A recent article in Fast Company posits in the peril of our times, it's not survival of the fittest but survival of the adaptable. The article profiles members of what they call Generation Flux. This generational classification is not based on demographics such as Baby Boomers or Generation Y; rather it's based on psychographics. It's a mindset that embraces instability, reframes challenges and tolerates or enjoys the ambiguity. I believe I am a part of Generation Flux. I am sure they would have profiled me if they had only known.

In these times, I have decided to choose adventure over apprehension, to ask questions and, when appropriate, to rewrite the rules. My favorite declaration in the face of fear is to be romanced by the unknown, excited by uncertainty and suspended by grace. Better than running scared any day.