George Romney once said, “There is nothing more vulnerable than entrenched success.” In other words, we get a little success under our belt and there’s a risk that we become fat, dumb, and happy . . . in short, complacent. Hubris sets in and some rigor leaves. We take our foot off the gas a bit because we think, “No one can catch us.” Until someone does. So, in the face of success, how do we avoid that kind of arrogance? How do we maintain the rigor and vitality that brought us success in the first place? For more on this, please continue reading below.
“When was the last time you did something for the first time?” ~ Unknown
That’s a line from a new Darius Rucker song, so we thought he wrote it . . . but he didn’t. Although we’d never heard it before, it’s apparently been around for awhile. Even so, we couldn’t find any attribution for it, so it’s either anonymous or in the public domain. Anyway, it does illustrate one way to keep things vital and dynamic. It challenges us to try something new once in awhile to prevent us from becoming stale.
There’s one school of thought that says, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” That leads to doing the same old thing, day in and day out, until someone arrives in your market with some fresh ideas and better ways of doing things. But there’s also the opposite school of thought that says, “If it ain’t broke, break it.” That’s change for the sake of change which probably doesn’t make much sense either. If your processes and procedures are working well, why would you arbitrarily throw them out and start all over again?
So between those two schools of thought, there must be a middle ground. This is where Continuous Improvement comes in . . . the idea that no matter how well things are working, there are always things we can do to make them better. In other words, we’re not fixing something that “ain’t broke,” we’re taking something that’s already working well and making it even better. Nor are we breaking something just for the sake of starting over. We’re preserving the fundamentals of the things that have made us successful, but finding ways to improve and strengthen them.
Will Rogers warned against complacency when he said, “Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” So don’t just sit there. If you ask yourself the question, “When was the last time we did something for the first time?”, and you either can’t remember, or you do remember but it was a long time ago, you’ve probably allowed yourself to “just sit there.”
Improving things that are already working well is tough, but with creativity, innovation, and determination, it can be done. Improving things is also risky. What happens if, in our efforts to make things better, we make them worse? Yes, change always brings some risk, but isn’t the greater risk “just sitting there” and giving your competition an open field to be the ones with the new, creative ideas?
Try something new. Look for improvements in old things. No sacred cows. Anything and everything should be subject to Continuous Improvement. Challenge your people to be innovative, to think creatively. Ask them, “When was the last time you did something for the first time?”