Are you familiar with QWERTYUIOP? It’s the top row of letters on a standard keyboard, known as QWERTY configuration. Back in the day, a leading typewriter manufacturer (do you remember typewriters?) received many complaints about keys sticking (or so the story goes). Their solution? Purposely slow down the operator by creating an inefficient keyboard configuration. This inefficient logic solved the problem. We’re now well over 100 years removed from the original problem, and even though faster and more efficient configurations are (and are becoming) available, the QWERTY configuration continues to be used.
This shows that, once a RULE gets put into place, it’s difficult to eliminate, even when THE ORIGINAL REASON NO LONGER EXISTS.
That’s why it’s important to challenge the status quo. To take a Kaizen approach of relentlessly pursuing a “better way”, and being creative.
The educator Rudolph Flesch once said: “Creative thinking may simply mean the realization that there is no particular virtue in doing things the way they have always been done.”
Challenging rules is a good creative thinking strategy. NOT challenging the rules can get you locked into one approach, method or strategy, without seeing that other approaches might be more appropriate.
Why challenge the status quo? Because:
1. We make rules (or create models or develop strategies) based on reasons that, at the time, make sense.
2. We follow these rules or strategies.
3. Time passes. Things change.
4. The original reasons for the rule or strategy may no longer exist, but because the rules are still in place, we follow them.
You may know this little story (I’m not sure of its origin, or where I even heard it, but it’s remained with me over the years)… it’s the one about the newylwed who was preparing a huge ham for a family reunion dinner. She lopped off two large portions from each end before putting it into the pan and oven to cook. When asked why she did this, she said: “That’s how my grandma always prepared her ham, and it was always delicious.”
When grandma arrived, she was asked why this lopping off the ends produced such a succulent ham.
Grandma replied: “Why, my dear, that had nothing to do with it. I simply couldn’t fit the ham into the pan, so I cut off the ends to make it fit.”
Are there rules, policies or strategies that you’re following in your business that once had a reason, but that reason no longer exists?
Are you “lopping off the ends of the ham” by doing things that you believe are grounded in good reason but, if you were to question or investigate, might realize…that was not the reason at all?