That’s the Way We’ve Always Done It

On March 15, 2022 the U.S. Senate passed the Sunshine Protection Act. This bill would make daylight savings time the new, permanent standard time which would end the twice-annual changing of clocks.  Daylight savings time has been observed in most states since 1966 with the passage of the Uniform Time Act.  Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) argued in favor of the bill by saying, “Just this past weekend we went through the biannual ritual of changing the clock, and one has to ask themselves, why are we doing this?  Hopefully this is the year that this gets done and pardon the pun, but this is an idea whose time has come.”

Sometimes change can be hard. Whether because it takes a great amount of effort or stretches us beyond our comfort zone, it can be difficult to make a change, even when we know it is the right thing to do. We all have a certain way of doing things. Personally and in the work that we do, we develop standards of practice or habits. In the world of work and education, certain practices exist and perhaps, have existed for long periods of time. However, just because an organization has always done something a certain way doesn’t mean it’s the way it should continue to be done. Combating the mentality of That’s The Way We’ve Always Done It, or TTWWADI for short, is important to drive innovation and to improve your current processes.  This may seem like an easy concept to agree with but how do innovative organizations do it?  

Oftentimes the ideas to improve, or at least question, a TTWWADI process happen from individuals in your organization who are immersed in the ongoing process on a daily basis. How we handle these ideas, and more importantly, the people who bring them to us, are critical.  Simon Sinek, Brené Brown, and Dr. Joe Sanfelippo, each of whom bring varied backgrounds and experiences in leadership, have some insightful perspectives on this topic worth considering.

Simon Sinek, author of Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, states in the video Questioning Why Things are Done the Way They Are:  

What starts to happen is over the course of time, some of the process becomes calcified and we follow it because we’ve just always followed it and nobody really knows why it’s there. And all it takes is one person to say, “Can somebody explain to me why we do it this way?” And if nobody has an answer, then it’s ripe to be changed or at least challenged. And if they have legitimate cause to change the process, but there’s still fear to blanketly change it everywhere, because that might be destructive, to let them experiment on their team with their group and try something new.

Watch the full video here:

Brené Brown, author of Dare to Lead, in her article, “3 Ways To Kill Your Company’s Idea-Stifling Shame Culture” states: 

Proposing ideas makes people feel vulnerable–so it’s in innovation’s interest to create a culture that’s secure.  To reignite creativity, innovation, and learning, leaders must rehumanize work. This means understanding how scarcity–a feeling of never having enough–is affecting the way we lead and work, learning how to engage with vulnerability, and recognizing and combating shame.

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Dr. Joe Sanfelippo, school superintendent and author of Lead from Where You Are: Building Intention, Connection and Direction in Our Schools (2022), states in the Cultivate Ideas video from his Hacking Leadership series:  

When someone is willing to put themselves out there and bring you an idea, it’s our job to make sure we connect people to help that idea grow. There’s a distinct difference between saying, “Hey, that’s a great idea,” and saying, “Hey, that’s a great idea. Can we meet on that next week, and who else do we need to have at the table for the discussion?”  Even if the idea doesn’t move forward at least they know you wanted it to and they’ll be willing to bring you one in the future. 

So how do we bring about the changes that we need? How can we break away from the TTWWADI mentality and bring innovation to an organization? The way is through establishing trust and a culture for risk-taking and innovation.  It is important to continue to reflect on our practice. As a leader in your organization, ask yourself if you are: 

  • Creating a culture where all members feel valued?
  • Honoring those who are courageous to bring forward new ideas? 
  • Maintaining a culture where people will want to continue to propose new ideas?  
  • Connecting other people in your organization to move ideas forward?  
  • Willing to allow ideas a trial run even if they might not work?