Because it has always been done this way

great_idea2The blogger Seth Godin recently wrote this on his blog:

>”Because it has always been this way”

That’s a pretty bad answer to a series of common questions.

Why is the format of the board meeting like this? Why do we always structure our annual conference like this? Why is this our policy? Why do we let him decide these issues? Why is this the price?

The real answer is, “Because if someone changes it, that someone will be responsible for what happens.”

Are you okay with that being the reason things are the way they are?<<

I can relate to this. Thirty-eight years ago I sat in my first class of law school on the first day of school. The day was partially spent with guest speakers brought in to motivate us I guess. Several people spoke including the dean of the law school, the president of the university and others. The one speaker I remember was a federal judge.

The judge told us that throughout our career we would ask the question repeatedly, “why is it done this way?” We would be told over and over again that it has always been done this way.

The judge raised his voice and pounded the podium, “never, never accept that explanation!” he said.

I do not remember anything anyone else said that day. I do not remember anything else the judge said that day. I will never forget that statement however and it has proven so true over the years.

The law is a time honored institution based on tradition and the rule of precedent. Its very DNA is designed to answer that question that way. Because it has always been that way.

It is never a satisfactory answer.

First because it is a lie. Nothing has always been done that way. Everything changes over time, even if, as in the law, it changes very slowly. What people tell you has always been done that way was once a totally new idea, even a revolutionary idea.

Second, it is not a good reason to do anything. What if the way it has always been done is wrong? What if is so out of date that it does not meet current needs and conditions? What if there is a better way to do it? (There is always a better way to do it.)

We should never accept that explanation or justification for doing anything. Yes, tradition is important. Tradition teaches us the lessons of past generations. But it is never enough. There must be a good reason to do it that way. It must be relevant to today’s conditions and needs.

Always ask the crucial question: why are we doing this that way? What purpose does it serve? What problem will it solve? What need does it meet and how? If the traditional answer meets those criteria than it is worthwhile to preserve the tradition. If it does not why should we continue doing it that way?

Read more from Seth Godin.

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.