Bert Lance was Director of the Office of Management and Budget during Jimmy Carter’s presidency.
Bert is best known for the phrase, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. Bert’s reason for uttering these words was that by not tinkering with something that’s working pretty well, you can save a lot of energy and money – both of which were important in Bert’s role in the Office of Management and Budget.
The phrase might be useful advice if you’re talking about a piece of farm machinery, but it’s a killer everywhere else.
Here’s what happens if you never revisit, refresh, renovate or replace an activity, product, service or belief when it’s working well:
- Your slow manufacturing process stops you from expanding.
- Your product is superseded by a newer, smarter, cheaper, faster one.
- Your business is made redundant by new technology.
- Your staff becomes disengaged through lack of creative challenge.
- Your partner leaves you due to boredom.
- You eliminate every possibility of innovation.
None of these is an exaggeration. There are many examples of these exact outcomes in the past, and they continue today.
Kodak spent a lot of time tweaking the quality of the film they produced. Each year they released film with better performance in low light, with finer grain, with more contrast and with deeper colours.
They did this because they believed they were in the film business and they wanted to make sure they were the best in that business.
What they didn’t consider was that there might be other ways to record images.
They didn’t consider it, but somebody else did. Kodak failed to recognise the potential and the threat of digital. By failing to look for an alternative to film, Kodak lost the opportunity to lead in the development of the new medium.
The fact is that if you’re doing today what you did yesterday, you’re going backwards. As you stand still, the world races forward.
Even as you are enjoying success, you need to be looking at the market, your audience and your product afresh. Take nothing for granted. Start again.
Send in the wreckers.