I posted Beware of What Used to Work But Doesn’t Anymore a couple of weeks ago on this blog, using a change in coffee shop trends to point out the danger of frozen assumptions. This is related to my fresh look idea, which is basically that you can become too familiar with your business, which prevents you from seeing what’s changed.
Key point here: The past doesn’t predict the present, much less the future.
And frozen assumptions is my term for the failure to question assumptions. It’s a kind of business complacency that comes with the passing of time and is part of human nature. It can be bad for business.
And maybe frozen assumptions isn’t as good a term as closed minds. The temptation to know things is very strong, indeed; and I can tell you, from experience, it gets stronger as you get older. But no, please, resist that. Here are five big clues you need to watch for:
1. We’ve been doing that for years, so we know it works.
This was the problem from that earlier post. When things change, you can get caught assuming status quo instead of looking at what’s happening. Just because it used to work doesn’t mean it still does. Danger!
2. We tried that. It didn’t work.
Things change. What didn’t work two or three years ago might work perfectly today. I’ve seen this kind of change for decades, as the businesses that get stuck in the past lose ground to businesses trying something new. I remember when Intuit was scared to death of online bookkeeping, which, at the time, wasn’t working for anybody. But they didn’t get locked into that, continued to experiment, and now it’s working.
3. We’ve always done it this way.
Yeah, right. You’re familiar with this one of course. Everybody in business is. You need to have an automatic alert that rings bells whenever anybody says this one. “Because we’ve always done it that way” is a bad reason to do anything.
4. Everybody else does it like that.
Maybe I spent too long as parent of teenagers. Do you recognize this faulty logic? That’s not a good reason to do anything. Help me in the comments here, please — I know there are a million examples out there, so please add some for me.
OK, there are some things that everybody does like that. But why? Are there good reasons?
5. Nobody else does it like that.
This one is just as bad: maybe nobody has thought of it right, or times have changed, situations have changed, and it’s time for your business to do something delightfully or dangerously different. We call this disruption, and in entrepreneurship and startups we like it a lot, right? Do it differently. Do it better.
(Image credit: vladm/Shutterstock)