Those Tricky Traditions

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about traditions. You know, the ol’ turkey hash/Grandma’s apple pie/decorating the Christmas Tree the day after Thanksgiving kind of traditions.

I got into a discussion with my Mom about some of the ones I treasure (e.g., decorating the tree) and some I detest but do anyway (black Friday shopping) and I started to think about how easy it can be to stick to the old ways of thinking in all aspects of life.

A few days after Thanksgiving, I had a conversation with an executive I partner with who alluded that, “this is the way we’ve always done things” – he was stuck in traditions, despite evidence to the contrary that things needed to change.

Our business traditions, or the, “way we do things around here,” are great – because they bear witness to the corporate culture and are often tried-and-true methods that have worked very successfully. But, I think we periodically need to challenge ourselves to find a new (and often more original) way to think through the best way to accomplish something. When we get stuck in our old ways, we leave little room for fresh thinking.

Traditions set our standards and are critical to define a common standard of quality  – methodologies, “standard” deliverables, templates and SOPs have an important role to play, no doubt. Sometimes, though, we have to break the mold and try something new, deviate from the methodology and create our own templates. Without original thinking, we lack the innovation we need to get out of our box and look around to see what  might be better around the corner.

For example, at a recent client, we convinced them to use both the traditional means of communication (e.g., conference calls, emails, LiveMeetings, etc.) and supplement the way we reach people through new, more innovative communication channels, including social media.

A great way to break tradition and innovate is to ask your team for the most out-of-the-box, innovative ways to reach your goals. People want to be challenged to deliver fresh thinking – but may not want to volunteer a crazy, risky (but potentially very smart) idea. Or maybe start a new, crazy tradition for your team to demonstrate your commitment to something different.

A great example of this was a partner on one of my projects who used to call “4:00 music” and asked everyone on her team to play their favorite music for one minute at 4:00 each day to refresh spirits, minds and lighten up. Her team loved it and were more engaged (and innovative) after 4 p.m. every day.

So break away from those traditions when you can – I broke my Black Friday shopping tradition this year and couldn’t be more thankful for the extra sleep and lack of a pepper-spraying incident!