Why “We have always done it that way” is a terrible approach

by Dallon Christensen

The equivalent of "We've always done it that way." - via Flickr

If there are worse words in business than, “We’ve always done it that way”, I haven’t heard them yet.

I have always considered myself someone who looks forward and tries to make things better. Unfortunately, I’ve heard this one sentence stifle conversations and frustrate those creating and innovating. I’m apparently not alone, as Seth Godin wrote a blog post last week emphasizing the warning signs of status quo thinking.

I do not want to minimize the importance of tradition and core values. If you or your organization focus only on the latest trend or “shiny object”, then you will lose the sense of foundation and focus that provides structure to your work. If we have no order or framework to what we do, then we can’t function at our best. However, focusing on the past can lead to thinking that slows or even stops creativity.

When you think of connecting creativity and execution, you must know what can and cannot change. Your core value, whether personal or organizational, give you the foundation of what doesn’t change. For example, my three personal core values are integrity, creativity, and forward thinking. Regardless of what I do, I won’t change those core values. I use those values as the structure to identify new opportunities and revenue streams in my business. I can do many different things to express those core values, but I will not accept anything that conflicts with those three values.

Where we get in trouble is when we accept past activity as the anchor for what we should do next. If we continue working on a bad project because we have already spent money on it, all we are doing is wasting more money. If we continue working on a bad idea because we’ve spent a lot of time creating it, then we are only robbing ourselves of the next creative idea.

Embrace those items from the past that give you a framework for the future, but do not think that “We’ve always done it that way” is the right strategy for your business.

How are you breaking free of “We’ve always done it that way”? Share your thoughts below!

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