The title of this post is a phrase I’ve heard way too many times. It is the refuge for those that either can’t, won’t or just aren’t given reason to think.
Years ago when I worked for a rather large publishing company, I sat in a cubicle for roughly 8 hours a day. Several mornings each week, I would notice a woman making copies. Always at the same time, with the same cart, with the same three colors of paper. She would make a stack of copies on blue paper, then a similar stack with green stock and lastly a lovely marigold color. There seemed to be maybe 50 sheets in each stack.
Once the copies were made, she would place the blue and green papers in the cart and drop the stack of the lovely marigold paper into the nearby trash bin.
The first time I realized she was discarding one of the stacks, I assumed there was a misprint and she was going to come back and reprint them. She didn’t return. Subsequent mornings I found her doing the same thing. It baffled me.
One morning I asked her about the copies she was making. She explained that the blue were for accounting, the green was for shipping and the yellow (she apparently didn’t know marigold when she saw it) was for a department that no longer existed.
Of course my next question was along the lines of “Why do you print them then?”. Her answer was that it is what she was told to do. No one had told her not to make the third stack. When she asked her boss what to do with the yellows, she was told to just throw them away.
Now, I know this sounds completely silly. Of course it is! But there are so many other things that happen every day that are similar. We do things because it it the way it has always been done all the time. Cars are still predominately made with the engines in the front. Men wear neckties… have you ever wondered why? Many shirts that aren’t designed to be worn with a tie still have collars on them. The U.S. uses imperial measurement… still. Having only two real political parties. There are many more examples out there.
Lately, there have been some examples that are in fact changing… or dying. Geoff Livingston writes about what is happening to the newspaper industry and what happened to department stores. Both have fallen victim to inability to move past the way it has always been done.
What part of what you do every day is done for similar reasons? Do you question the norms? Look around you, the norms are everywhere, every day, in everything we do. Not all of them are bad, but some are just silly if you give it a little thought.
Excellent post! I’ve noticed many things like the marigold stack of paper at previous companies. Now, I challenge myself and my employees to question stuff like this. That’s the way it’s GOING to be done!