‘Because That’s How We’ve Always Done It’ Will Kill Your Employee’s Creativity and Your Company

Patrick Kelly
Oct 17, 2016 · 4 min read

I was talking with a friend recently who was sharing some of his frustrations about his current job. As one of the younger people in his organization, he found himself running in to a lot of roadblocks when dealing with any sort of change.

He told me, “If I had a dollar for every time I heard ‘well, we’ve just never done that here’ or ‘this is how we’ve always done it’, I’d be able to retire.” Whether right or wrong, consistently getting this feedback causes issues for employees. The frustration he feels by working inside an ‘old school’ organization that isn’t keen to adapt and change gets tougher as each day, each meeting, each ‘no’ comes up when an idea is presented. What’s the point of trying if you know you’ll always be shut down?

What it’s done to his motivation, ambition, and drive within the job is noticeable. He no longer brings forward new ideas. He no longer tries to think outside the box. He has mentally checked out of the job. He does what he needs to do to get by, but nothing above and beyond. The company has lost him mentally, and they will lose him as an employee, but they don’t even know it yet.

The creativity he desired to use internally to help the organization grow now gets used externally to find a new job opportunity.

This story isn’t unique. It’s a common theme running among many established companies who grew to the strength and power they have based on that old school way. It worked great…for a time.

The problem is that for many of these companies, what got them to where they are today won’t get them to where they want to go in the future, and in fact, could jeopardize their entire company. Why? Because we live in a different work world now.

Change is happening so quickly all around us. The speed of technological change is unbelievable. Our world is completely different than just 10 years ago, let alone 30. Think about it: 10 year ago, companies like Twitter, Uber, Lyft, Snapchat, Instagram, Airbnb, and Venmo didn’t exist. Facebook was only a two-year old company that was only used by a select number of college students, YouTube was barely a year-old, and Netflix was still mainly a DVD-by-mail service.

Think of how influential all these companies have been on the world in such a short time. And maybe more importantly, think of the established businesses they have either put out of business or disrupted. Think of Blockbuster, the taxi companies, the hotels, the wire transfer companies that saw ‘how we’ve always done it’ become obsolete. And if you think your company is immune to these changes, you’re in for a rude awakening.

So how do you think that running your company and managing your people the same way you did 10–15 years ago will do anything but hold your company back and limit your ability to change in this quickly changing world?

This is the new reality. Change is happening. It will affect your company. It is not ‘if’ but ‘when’, and most likely that ‘when’ is now. And sitting back and saying ‘this is how we’ve always done it’ can’t work anymore.

The key to taking on this change, to tackling the problem head on, will be through enabling your people to think creatively, think outside the box, and allow for change. While all companies may agree with this in principle, rarely is it actually encouraged to happen. Every company says they want employees who think outside the box, and then as soon as they get hired are often forced to work only within the confines of the role and company standard.

By staying the same, by doing as you’ve always done, it will ruin the creativity of your people in your organization, and thus make your company either blind to the changes coming to your industry, or make your employee base apathetic to trying to do anything about it.

Companies have plenty of people like my friend, who see change coming, who question the status quo, who seek to push the company forward. They are eager to give their input, to make the company better.

Become a company that embraces this new perspective, this new thinking. Do not settle for ‘this is how we’ve always done it’, but rather embrace the ‘what if we tried’ mentality. Do this by enabling your people. They already have the ideas, it’s up to the company to decide if they want to listen.

Thanks for reading! If enjoyed it, please like or share with someone who you think would enjoy reading this.

Patrick Kelly

Written by

Speaker. Founder — Change Point Consulting. Re-imagining the future of work through culture and collaboration. www.changepointconsulting.com

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