The Downside of Traditions

Posted on November 22, 2010 by Josh Linkner

If you live in the U.S., you’ll probably be celebrating Thanksgiving this Thursday. And if I asked you what you were serving for dinner, you’d give me a puzzled look and think to yourself, “who is this idiot?” Like a couple hundred million others, you’ll be enjoying turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and all the other traditional trimmings.

You follow the tradition and don’t have to think at all about the menu. By definition, you simply comply with the prescribed formula from the past. No need to think whatsoever.

While traditions may be nice in a family setting, they can be disastrous in the business world. If you think about it, the whole idea of a tradition causes us to turn our brains off. It is the easy, lazy thing to do. Just blindly follow the past so you don’t have to do the hard work of critical thinking in the present.

If your business is over 12 months old, it has traditions. The problem is – they may not be helping to move your organization forward. Concepts, processes, techniques, and rituals of the past may not help you at all in today’s ultra-competitive climate. Worse yet, your team may be turning off their minds and failing to bring fresh ideas forward at a time that your company needs it the most.

Great leaders are advocates for change. While they respect the past, they win by adapting to the present and architecting for the future. They bring curiosity and open-mindedness and love to challenge the status quo. They constantly ask “why?”, “what if?”, and “why not?”

Sure there’s a place in the world for traditions. But with fierce global competition, you need to deeply question the traditions of the past and focus more on reinventing the future. There’s little room for blindly following what was. It’s time to create. To question. To imagine. To innovate.

While you may not be serving Pan-Asian Fusion or New York Deli this Thanksgiving, think about the traditions in your organization and take a hard look at what should stay and what needs a fresh start. We all have incredible creative capacity, and we need to bring it to the job. Now more than ever.

So whether you’re passing the gravy or the sushi, let’s all give thanks for the ability we have as humans to create unique ideas and imagine new approaches. Now’s a perfect time to focus on creating your own new, fresh, and game-changing traditions.

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