We've Always Done It This Way


Each year, some organization or another issues a list of words or phrases that are "in" for the New Year and words or phrases that are "out". I think "we've always done it this way" is one phrase that should be out--this year and forever! In fact, I would strike it from the English language if I had the power.

This phrase and all the others like it are morale downers and innovation killers. This phrase is usually spoken by someone who has been around the organization for a while who loves to share how in the deep, dark past of the organization's history, the idea you just put on the table was tried and why it was a dismal failure--so, let’s just doing what we've been doing is their response.

If we always do things the same way we've always done them, why do we hire smart, innovative people? Don't we bring in new people to learn from their experiences? If not, why hire from the outside of the organization? Certainly, if there is a good business reason why a new idea isn’t a good idea, don’t do it but odds are, there is something good in the new idea that deserves some thought or action—not just “but, we’ve always done it this way!”

This resistance to change is often portrayed in the following employee relations challenge that we too often witness: A new manager comes into the department and tries to implement new processes. There is immediate backlash and employees start complaining that what they are being asked to do is “not in my job description.” (Just another way of saying “that won’t work.”) Or if the new manager comes from outside the organization and is asked to be shown how something is done, the reaction can be “why should I have to teach him/her something?” Once again, the implication is it’s not in my job description and I’m not going to try anything new.

We have talked a lot in this blog about how difficult change is for many people so it comes as no surprise that when a new idea is floated, the knee jerk reaction from those resistant to change is to tell you why your idea won't work. Wouldn't it be better to say, “Great idea. Let's try it for a month and see how it works."

Let me know how you handle resistance to new ideas in your organization and if you agree with me that "we have always done it like this" should disappear from our vocabulary!

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