“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got” has been attributed to several people, ranging from Henry Ford to various NLP and personal development luminaries. Going a bit further, Albert Einstein defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
So with my sanity at stake, I’ve spent some time recently thinking about whether the coming year needs me to do more of the same or to try something different. Like many people at this time of year, I’ve looked back to see if I’ve achieved what I wanted to over the last twelve months; where I haven’t, are there other things I can be doing that will bring me nearer my goals?
During my reflections however, I realised that there are hidden dangers in the quote I’d always interpreted as mainly a warning against expecting things to change without changing my own behaviour. What if I’m perfectly happy with the way things are going: should I just continue to do exactly the same things and everything will continue as normal? This risks overlooking, or at least under-estimating, the impact of external factors. Inexperienced managers sometimes fall into this trap, believing that the approach they took successfully with one person will work equally well on another. The different personalities involved, the levels of skill and experience possessed and the varying degrees of engagement will greatly affect how individual members of staff respond to the same managerial approach.
Assuming that the same actions always produce the same results can also lead us to become complacent. What might have been very successful last year may quickly become ineffective in the face of an ever-changing environment. Successful organisations continually monitor and respond to external factors, listening closely to their customers’ needs, looking at what their competitors are offering, and keeping themselves informed about the latest changes in legislation or technology.
No matter what your New Year thoughts might have already uncovered, it could therefore be worth reflecting a little further just to make sure you haven’t overlooked something that works perfectly adequately at the moment but which in a few months’ time may cause you a major headache. The popular cliché “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is quite seductive when there are so many things we need to keep on top of. It’s not however a great idea to wait until something topples over before paying it attention.