It’s Hard To Improve What You Won’t Take Time to Learn

Good morning! I hope your day (and your week) is off to a great start.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to sit in on a training session with somebody who had just begun a new venture. It’s always fun to see the excitement in somebody’s eyes as they think of the many things they hope to accomplish and, maybe for the first time in their life, actually feel like they can do some of those things. Doubt is replaced by confidence and imagination takes place of fear.

I’ve been there, sitting in that seat, and thinking of all the things I wanted to accomplish, with somebody offering their time to show me how to do it. And I have to be honest. The whole time, my brain was moving faster than my ears, filtering out the parts I didn’t want to hear. Just tell me the fun stuff. I like fun. All that other stuff is for the people who really need it. I’m different.

If that sounds familiar, welcome to the club. It’s a lot more common than we’d like to think. The first day on a new job, we’re listening and learning, and just as quickly as we’re learning, we’re trying to think of a more efficient way to get the job done better and faster. Okay, maybe not the first day. But it usually doesn’t take long.

And the truth is, there may be a better way. Managers love it when an employee can come up with a new suggestion that saves money and gets things done more efficiently. But sometimes you have to stumble through a lot of messes to come up with something that’s truly better. And unless you’ve been around long enough to get away with that, creativity may not be your best bet.

Sometimes, it’s best to just go with the tried and true formula. There’s a reason they call it that – it’s because it’s been tried a bunch of times, and it works. And sometimes, with all the other ways that something can be done, the first approach was truly the best. I’m sure a lot of people have tried to improve on the basic concept of the wheel, but so far, a perfectly round shape seems to work best.

Many of you are too young to remember when Coca Cola tried to boost sales by “improving” their flagship product. The company spent $40 million in research and taste-tests to find a formula that would put an end to the long-running “cola war” with Pepsi and others. The result was deemed one of the largest marketing blunders in history. Three months later, with $300 million in unwanted product on hand, the company went back to their original formula.

The Ford Motor Company learned a similar lesson years earlier when they attempted to take the automotive market by storm with a car that was so far ahead of its time, nobody wanted it. There were other factors in the Edsel’s failure, but it’s a classic example of how a drastic deviation from the tried and true can sometimes result in complete failure. All told, it cost the company the equivalent of $4.8 billion in today’s dollars.

When we start something new, we want it to be our own. That’s the creative spirit that lies within each of us. It’s the creative spirit that allows us to imagine something beyond our current reality, to dream of something better. And it’s that same creative spirit that often gets in the way when we begin chasing that dream, because we don’t want to do it somebody else’s way – even if it works.

It’s natural to want to come up with great ideas on our own. Every technological advance in history was the result of somebody thinking, “there has to be a better way.” But before you can invent a better way, you must first understand and apply the tried and true method to find out what works and what doesn’t. Or, as Mom always used to say, you have to crawl before you can walk.

Whatever you’re trying to accomplish, you can usually find somebody who’s willing to show you how to do it. And their way may not be the best way – but until you learn what works, it’s hard to improve upon it. Sometimes, we have to be satisfied with steady progress instead of a jump to the end. We have to take time to learn and apply the principles that have been proven over time.

There’s nothing wrong with creativity. The trick is knowing when to apply that creativity, and when to be quiet and listen to somebody who’s been where you are and at least knows how to get you headed in the right direction. Emulate those who have proven what works before you try to improve upon it. Your journey to success may not be immediate, but once you’re on the right path, you can always go a little faster.

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2019 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved