In 1996, Tiger Woods won 25% of the tournaments he entered. That’s an insanely great record. So how did he respond to that accomplishment? He changed his swing. That change caused his winning percentage to drop to 5% within 2 years. Many people shook their heads and brought out the old chestnut, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” Clearly his swing hadn’t been broken, so why did he mess with it?
Turns out he just needed to get used to his new swing. One year later he won 38% of his tournaments, and 45% the following year. In 2003 he changed his swing again and after dipping to 5% (again) he rebounded (again) so that from 2006-2008 he won 51% of the time.
The moral of the story? Just because something isn’t broken doesn’t mean you should let it be. In other words, stop saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” (Besides, it's terrible grammar!)
If you wait for something to break and a fix to become necessary, it may be too late.
A classic example is Kodak. The camera and film company. You may be surprised to know they developed the world’s first digital camera. However, their business model was based on selling film and they were doing quite well - #1 in that market. Not wanting to compete with themselves, they chose to not fix something that was not broken, and did not produce their digital camera commercially. They missed the boat because nothing was broken.
While it is easy to point and laugh at a company’s mistakes in hindsight, making the correct decision at the time is rarely easy. Too often, though, decisions are based on fear and at times, laziness, which are both lizard brain impulses to stay in the safety of the status quo.
I am not an advocate of change for change’s sake. For me there needs to be a good chance that a change will be an improvement in the long run before I will jump. But I don’t want to wait until a product, process or system is beyond repair and causing damage before I make a change.
They say that necessity is the mother of invention but sometimes imagination is what really spurs innovation.
Remember - film cameras worked just fine. So did cassette tapes. And rotary phones. But aren’t you glad you no longer have to spend the time and money to develop your film only to discover your thumb was in the way half the time? And that you don’t have to insert a pencil to rewind your music storage device? Don’t even get me started on rotary phones.
Don’t accept a tool, policy, or process as-is without imagining a better version of it. Ask yourself:
- Is it more difficult to use than it could be?
- Is it more expensive than it needs to be?
- Could it be made more accessible?
- How could it accomplish more without making it more complex?
- Has the problem it was developed to solve changed over time? If so, how? And how can the object be improved to solve the current version of the problem?
Remove The phrase “If it ain’t broke, don't fix it!” from your repertoire of pithy sayings. instead, embrace a growth and improvement mindset. With a forward thinking attitude we can thrive in ways that those who are glued to the status quo cannot.
Think well and be well.
- Steve Haffner
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