What would you do if you found out that your best practices had become your worst practices? Would you stop doing them? Most of us would probably say yes, but its not that easy is it? If we could stop when we recognized that something was a bad idea, then we would have far fewer smokers, alcoholics, gamblers and other addictive behaviors.
Ok, what if we removed addictive behaviours from the conversation and simply looked at those behaviours that are just bad practice, we would stop right? Well, actually, not really or not easiliy. Often what people do instead of changing their behavior is to work harder at their old models. They don’t do it out of stupidity or spite, they do it because they are absolutely convinced that if they apply themselves, if the tools are right, if everyone would do their part, if any array of things were different then the old models would be effective and they in turn would be proven correct. On a regular basis new and better ways of doing things are revealed and ignored.
Psychology Today shared results from recent psychological research that revealed that the five worst learning practices are the ones we are most likely to use in schools. Think about that. We teach our young with methods that are most likely to ensure they don’t learn. Do we hate our kids? Unlikely. Are we committed to seeing them learn and develop new ideas? Yes. So why aren’t we using the five best learning practices?
Think about the corporate world’s persistent use of brainstorming sessions as a way to generate new ideas. Research has shown that we actually generate more ideas when we are alone, than when we are in group settings. The reasons are many, ranging from a reluctance to share because we might be ridiculed, to feeling too much pressure to perform. Regardless of the reasons for low output, we know that we are less innovative in group settings, yet we not only persist in brainstorming sessions, but we work hard to make them work better.
What makes the sessions so very appealing is that we like how we feel when we participate. We feel that we have produced more. They generate trust and generally make us feel more connected to our colleagues. Not bad for a bad practice and if we had feeling good as our objective, then that would be great, but that is not the outcome we are looking for from the activity, so why persist? The answer is simple and really complex, we don’t like change.
Change is hard and it can seem frightening or futile. We will work hard to avoid change. If we can understand what motivates us to do the things we do, then we are in a better position to manage performance, manage outcomes and manage expectations. As leaders we need to understand that what we are comfortable doing isn’t always what we should be doing. Some of the most destructive words in any workplace, community or culture can be, “That’s how we have always done it.”
This s not to say that traditions are wrong or old way erroneous. We just need to be aware of why we cling to activities and ways of doing things. We should also constantly be looking for the ways to improve. We may determine that the old ways are still the best ways, but being blind to possibility, or closed to opportunity is not only a way to fail ourselves, but when managing people it can be disastrous for an organization.
One of the most interesting aspects of social media is that it behaves like a continuous improvement process. It never stops assessing and adjusting, it asks participants to continuously adapt, it regularly produces metrics that you can measure performance by and it never stops changing. Not bad practices for the rest of our lives. Not surprisingly, it also happens to be one of the few places where brainstorming actually produces a quantity of innovative ideas.
Applying some of the adaptability that we use to navigate the social media world in the real world would be a great start to ensuring we are not producing crap. What do you do to stay effective? How do you ensure that your practices are still best practices? Share your ideas with me in the comment section.