I saw a great cartoon the other day. It was drawing of two cave men pushing a cart with square wheels. Another cave man is offering them round wheels to replace the square ones. To which they respond “No Thanks. We are too busy.”
It’s easy for us non-cave people to sit in our third person realities and ridicule this irrational behavior. But if you didn’t see yourself in it, you may be in a little denial.
As humans, we are usually victims of routine. We get into habits and don’t like to change them. I often catch myself doing things out of habit. If I step back and think about it, I may rethink my actions and figure out a better approach.
More often, this happens when someone else observes my behavior and asks, “Why are you doing it that way?”
I usually respond with something intelligent like, “Well that’s how I’ve always done it.”
Even after someone explains a simpler or more efficient way to do things, I sometimes resist. Even when people offer me round wheels, I like living in my comfort zone.
Taking a different approach to something usually involves additional thinking. If you drive the same way to work in the morning, you usually can do it without much thought. You habitually turn where you need to turn. You probably park in the same general area every day.
If someone tells you an alternate route that might be faster, you’re suddenly out of that comfort zone. You have to concentrate a little more on where and when to turn.
The same happens at work when we do something routinely. You may do it that way because it’s the easiest and most efficient way. But the situation may have changed. There may be a better way now.
Changing the way we do something often requires an investment in time as well. If we changed the wheels on the cart, we would have to stop what we’re doing, take the square wheels off and put the round ones on.
Sometimes I don’t feel like I have the time to invest doing all that work. But if I’m honest with myself, I’m probably just too lazy to change my ways.
I’ve caught myself doing intense manual work to make changes or find data in a large spreadsheet. And I’ve caught myself saying that there has to be an easier way.
I’ve had to force myself to investigate the many Excel commands that I’m not familiar with to find the easier way to do it. I not only find that easier way. But I also learn a new Excel function that I can use later. (I usually learn a couple of functions just finding the one that works best for that situation.)
Routine is generally good. It can make you more efficient when you can do things with little effort. But it’s important to frequently stop and analyze what you’re doing, and why you’re doing it. Is there a better way?
You might just find some round wheels.
Are you using square wheels anywhere?
As always, I welcome your comments and criticisms.
If you would like to learn more about working in consulting, get Lew’s book Consulting 101: 101 Tips for Success in Consulting at Amazon.com
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net