But That's the Way We've Always Done It

Updated: October 14, 2010

Being a true risk taker, it eludes me as to why hanging onto a boat anchor is safer than letting go and striking out for dry land - even if that land is a blur in the distance.

Hanging onto 'the way we've always done it' is one of the most common challenges I encounter in my clients.

That's one of the reasons I question everything. I always ask about the logic, the 'why' behind the thoughts and processes. The Inevitable Answer?

Because we've always done it that way.

Those seven little words contribute heavily to companies' declines. They will trip you up even as you are scrambling to reinvent yourself in the marketplace, with the best intentions and focus.

You can't reinvent yourself and continue to hang onto the ‘knowns' of your business. I'll bet right now that some of those very ‘knowns' are part of the reason you're in the position you're in.

Hopefully you're beginning to wonder if it's time to chuck the ideas you've held near and dear to your heart about markets, products and customers, right into the fire.

So do the same thing with key processes, assumptions and execution patterns. Question ‘why' you do things the way you do. Every time you hear that answer, "Because that's the way we've always done it," - take another look.

Chances are you'll find an opportunity for innovation and a new way of thinking. And isn't that why we're all here in the first place?

Start with a Blank Whiteboard

One of the first things I recommend to get new ideas flowing is an old fashioned brainstorming meeting. With true out-of-the-box thinking. No ideas are wrong, everything is accepted as a potential and the more ideas the better.

  1. Start with a blank whiteboard - and I do mean blank. Nothing is a given, nothing is held as fact - everything is in play as part of the process of reinvention.
  2. Include everything in your evaluation: Markets, target profiles, value propositions, SWOTs, products, materials, messages, everything that matters to your customer efforts.
  3. Challenge everything, ask questions, debate everything - there are no Sacred Cows in business.
  4. Make sure customers AND prospects are included as part of your process. Customer beliefs are the ultimate test. In the end - when revenues and profits are the bottom line definition of success or failure, nothing else matters but what your customers think - and how they spend their dollars.

By the way, some of your 'facts' and beliefs will indeed be true. But when you hold all of your beliefs in the fires of scrutiny - you'll find that some aren't.

Beginning the process, seeing your company and its 'truths' under deep scrutiny, can be a tough, but very necessary, step toward defying Gravity and soaring. Objective truth is one of the critical steps to ditching the status quo that holds us all back.

It is one of the biggest challenges every business faces. I like to call the brainstorm meetings 'love in's. Not because they are easy and light, but because of the emotions and passions that arise as part of the process. It's hard sometimes to let go of tradition. But if we want to grow - we must let go.

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