Audacity: Breaking Free of “That’s The Way it’s Always Been Done”
By the sink in our London office sits a cultural phenomenon. It looks like this:
Every morning at 7:30 our caretaker fills a cup with water, and every morning it’s filled with spoons dunked in tea and coffee. The ritual ticks along throughout the day, the water getting rustier with every teaspoon, until it’s emptied into the dishwasher. The following morning, the glass is refilled and we go again.
Nobody knows why we do this – trust me, even the caretaker doesn’t know. People have put forward their theories, but I’m not convinced. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of leaving things to soak, even if my mum thinks I do it to avoid washing-up. But a teaspoon isn’t a Yorkshire pudding tray; it’s dead easy to rinse or stick in the dishwasher. Nope, something isn’t quite adding up here…
I’m sure many of you will have heard the story about five monkeys and a ladder, but here it is anyway. Imagine a room, and in the middle there’s a ladder reaching up to a banana. In walk five monkeys, the bravest of whom climbs the ladder to reach the banana. Before he can get there, the other four are soaked with cold water. They begin to learn that trying to reach the banana results in a soaking, so they attack any monkey that tries to climb the ladder.
After some time, the original monkeys are replaced with new ones. When the new monkeys try to get the banana, they are punished for their efforts by the old guard. In turn, they learn that climbing the ladder is a punishable offence – even if they don’t know why. Eventually all the original monkeys are replaced, and yet the banana remains untouched: the new monkeys follow the rule blindly, attacking any who try to climb the ladder.
It’s a real ‘cup filled with teaspoons’ situation.
Sometimes we do things because that’s the way it’s always been done. Too lazy, or too scared, to stand out from the crowd, we blindly follow the rules set by our predecessors without understanding their origin, or the consequences of their breakage. This is the path of least resistance, and it’s one we’re all guilty of taking.
Innovation depends on someone having the guts to challenge the status quo, especially where the status quo doesn’t make sense.
It’s about the relentless drive to see things as they are today, and not as they were yesterday. That’s one of the reasons why audacity is a value close to our hearts. We champion those who see ‘the way it’s always been done’ as a challenge to unlock a new opportunity. We champion those who wash their own damn teaspoons (even if we don’t).Get in touch