Because I Said So
I probably just made you cringe. Sorry about that. I don’t think I have said this to my 5-year old yet, but I must have heard it thousands of times growing up. Thousands. I found it frustrating as a young human trying to negotiate the world and I find it even more so in a business context.
Now I’m not suggesting that I have ever had someone in a business meeting flat out say the words, “because I said so.” No one would do that; that would be silly. But trust me, they do say it. They just use different words. You’ll hear it most often disguised as the equally frustrating, “because that’s the way we’ve always done it.” Don’t be fooled — it’s the same thing.
“Because that’s the way we’ve always done it” is the business world’s answer to “because I said so.” It shuts down the person who’s asking, it gets the meeting “back on track,” and it stops innovation. “Because that’s the way we’ve always done it” has a cousin called, “Before you try that, you should run it by Al, Dana, Steve, Brenda, Maria, Carl, and Pat.” “Run it by these other people” is another great way to slow your progress and ensure you don’t end up trying anything too new or too risky. The result is the same — you are stuck with no one willing to take a chance and try something a different way.
I’m not saying people are out there intentionally leading you down the wrong path and purposely stifling your creativity, but I am saying it’s incredibly easy to get stuck in the “Because I Said So” trap. I get it — we’re busy people and when we find something that worked once, it’s tempting to just tell everyone to do it the same way forever, and ever, and ever. And ever. Often, even the person telling you to not try your “new thing” doesn’t even know why they do things the way they are suggesting you do them, they just do it that way. Maybe because someone told them to do it that way once and it made sense at the time. “Why would that person steer me wrong,” after all. But I really think that if you stop the impulse to just keep doing things the way you’ve always done them, force yourself to think the question through, you will find new and better ways to solve or appreciate problems.
Things change, but often the way we approach them doesn’t. It takes someone asking more questions to push people out of their comfort zone of “the way we’ve always done it” into the land of, “I never thought of it that way.” That’s when it gets good
My kid is never satisfied with a pat answer. I don’t think you should be either. Act like a (much more socially appropriate and business savvy) 5-year old. Keep asking “Why?” You might make things better. Go ahead, I double-dog dare you.