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Why 'We've Always Done It That Way' Is Keeping You 'Stuck'.

13 Jul 13:00 By Lawrence Akers

We've Always done it that way

Like anyone, there are phrases out that I hear that can tend to ‘trigger’ a reaction in me. I’m sure you know what I mean; it’s those things that people say that just makes you cringe, recoiling in horror as you wonder if they realise using that statement says more about their attitude towards things than they may even be consciously aware of. For some people it might be ‘why does this always happen to me’ (the catch cry of the ‘victim mentality’). Some might find the one word passive aggressive anthem ‘whatever...’ to be their trigger point. 

For me, it is the line ‘we’ve always done it that way.’ When it comes to business, I think we hear it all too often.

Let me tell you what I hear between the lines when I hear the line ‘we’ve always done it that way’.

It can fall into one of a few categories, and none of them are particularly good.

It could mean that people are not feeling empowered enough to provoke change, or that they’re too overwhelmed, or even too lazy. People might think 'why reinvent the wheel' although I'd argue two things; innovation doesn't have to involve reinvention but it does involve ensuring that the wheel is still the right object to be used in that situation and, secondly, I'd hope your business processes are more sophisticated and complex than a wheel. Even your car needs new tires occasionally when the old ones become worn, right?

It could mean that people are scared of change and would often rather settle with something than use their curiosity and innovation to explore if there is something better. The unknown can be scary because that means stepping outside of the comfort zone and running the risk of things not being as successful as they were before. But without that vulnerability, you can't have innovation.

It could mean that they’re using it as a position of power; “I’m not going to allow change to happen because that means I would have to give away some of my control.” If this is you, then I imagine you're fairly used to change as I can imagine staff turnover is a concept you'll be personally familiar with. Of course, the obvious question that comes to mind when I meet people who are afraid to be collaborative is 'how does that behaviour serve you?'

It could mean that you’re so down-trodden and happy just to accept the "average" that the thought of even spending a few moments to explore if the alternative could offer something better just seems all too hard. I used to get concerned about my apathy but... meh...

But this is the problem.

Things don’t stay the same. Change is inevitable. You can try not to change but then things are going to change around you and, as a result, you’re forced into change.  You can delay change and believe you're in control but that isn't how the concept of change works. You can be happy with accepting substandard but you have to wonder at what longer term cost. The short term bliss of avoiding dealing with things is often compounded in the longer term when everything catches up.

This is the key here - either you can go with change or you can fight it and eventually be forced into it.

Let me give you a more practical example.

Let’s go back 20 years ago. Back then, I was a Marketing Manager with a record label. My job was to get a new release and to come up with the marketing plan for that release which would include which retail we would focus on, what media we would go after, and what radio and television. Back then, it was all about television commercials, in-store promotion, radio play and press ads.

How many of those marketing strategies are still effective now?

Digital has come along and it has changed the world. 

You wouldn’t dare have a marketing strategy for a record release nowadays without considering the online aspect of it, especially since record stores are becoming less and less bricks and mortar and more entirely online.

Did you know that K Mart has just stopped stocking CD’s and DVD’s? Yep, it has changed that much in a very short amount of time.

What success do you think I would achieve now if I was to use those same marketing strategies that I did 20 years ago? Of course, they may work on some level for some people but the chances are that they’re no longer going to be getting me in front of the ideal demographic that I want to hear that record.

If I was stuck in my ‘we’ve always done it this way’ paradigm, then I would be effectively phasing myself out of a job unless I considered innovation and change.

Just because you’ve done it one way for a while doesn’t necessarily mean it is the right and/or only way. Right?

And this is the problem; the belief that ‘we’ve always done it this way’ is a belief that keeps people ‘stuck’. You can’t move. You’re either fighting inevitable change or you’re going downhill.

Even the behaviour of inaction is aligned to this belief that 'things are as they are'. It doesn't mean that you should go gung-ho on changing every process every week however a regular audit on what works and what doesn't is only going to make your life easier, your business more successful, your customers happier, your suppliers better aligned, and your workplace absolutely more awesome.

I do find it ironic that there are a lot of people out there who embrace innovation and cutting edge technology when it comes to their marketing and digital strategy yet they’re strategy for resourcing creative talent is ‘we’ve always done it that way’.  

I can tell you now, much in the same way that the music industry has had to evolve and change to remain relevant, so has the recruitment industry. Consider the lost opportunities that existed from the music industry fighting the MP3 sharing sites instead of working with them at the time to create a new platform. Years and profits were lost instead of being innovative, collaborative and coming up with something new. The problem was 'too hard', 'too outside the box' and, frankly, something that they had never had to battle before. But in that fear and hesitation, they became stuck until the innovators came along and changed the music industry landscape.

Great creative talent isn’t sitting around waiting to be found anymore. 

There are businesses out there who are paving the way in how recruitment businesses will exist in the future by embracing new, cutting edge search technologies to find these people and to engage with them on a whole new level.

I know this because, well, I’m working for one of those businesses. Not wanting to blow our own trumpet but Creative Recruiters was recently ranked the most socially engaged niche creative recruitment agency in Australasia. How many of your other creative suppliers can offer you that?

If you find that what you’re getting feels second best, then chances are that you are. If you’re feeling like it might be time to consider a new, better way to source creative talent, then you’re going to be embracing change for all the right reasons and giving you and your business the opportunity to confirm if the way you are doing it now is still the best way it can be done. If it is, stick with it. If not, you've just been the catalyst for change for all the right reasons.