Half of the island where we live is conservation land with beautiful trails running through it. As we were walking a new path the other day, I was struck by how often people get stuck in the ‘ ‘this is the way we’ve always done it” thinking. In other words, let’s stick to the path we know. They may even recognize all of the ways in which this path no longer works for them — it’s inefficient, it’s ineffective, it’s just plain painful — but, “that’s the way we’ve always done it.”
I’ll give you an example. I’ve recently switched vision insurance providers. So, I called the new vendor to find out the process for getting an eye exam. The customer service representative shared that the process involved the following steps:
Step 1, I had to decide if I wanted an exam or eyewear or both.
Step 2, I had to call customer service to let them know the service I wanted.
Step 3, The customer service rep would enter my request into their system.
Step 4, A separate customer service representative would call me back to take my credit card information, so they could finally…
Step 5, Issue me a voucher via email that I could take to the eye appointment.
I was stunned. I can imagine that, at some point in time, there might have been an issue where a member’s credit card information was mishandled, and that incident led to a division of duties. Perhaps that was the best solution available at that moment. The problem lies when practices such as this are allowed to persist unchecked when organizational inertia accepts the response “That’s the way we’ve always done it.”
We must challenge ourselves to regularly look at things with fresh eyes, from new and different perspectives, to identify opportunities to change and improve. Continuing with my example, if this organization had put themselves in the shoes of the customer, they would have seen the issues with their workflow. If they looked at other industries, such as banking, they could envision how they might be able to protect their customers’ data while giving the customer the ability to complete transactions online.
If I only stayed on a single path in the conservation land, I would only have one limited perspective. It is only by exploring new paths, by creating my own paths, that I can see the island from a new perspective.
When you hear yourself, or someone else, say, “That’s the way we’ve always done it,” or you find yourself in a rut of routine (meaning you are on autopilot), perhaps it’s time to venture off that tired old path. Question why you’ve always done it that way. Look at the things that have become a rut or tedious. Bring back to your conscious awareness the things you do unconsciously. And, explore some fresh terrain.