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If It's Not Broken, Don't Fix It, Should You?

“Don't be afraid to give up the good to go for the great.” -John D. Rockefeller.

For a long time, I’ve heard the phrase “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it,” and most of the time it’s never thought further, we just accept it as we have inherited it from our collective wisdom, but I sometimes ask myself if we should just think a bit differently. Maybe it deserves a bit of new polish the time has taken from it.

What I think about this practice is that we as professionals should research deeply what works to further optimize it, and to better understand the intricacies of what is working and what doesn’t. This both applies to computer systems and business processes.

If you tend to be of the risk-averse personality type, this kind of thinking will get in the way of being flexible enough to stretch yourself outside of your comfort zone. I recognize that you will then need extra effort to break out of the fears of affecting your current conditions that enable you to live the way you currently do. Sometimes you need to let go of yourself as your interests most certainly will get in the way, at the cost of sacrificing your future greatness. A pitfall to watch for: Your finances will impact your decision-making process, for both your professional and personal life.

Let me elaborate a bit on the “letting go of yourself” idea: it’d be best if you unlearned old ways of taking action, as these might no longer be relevant for your current situation. Have your returns diminished over time? Or if your returns increased, elevate your internal conversation with: Even with greater returns, has your growth rate somehow stalled? By no means I’m trying to imply fast growth or continued strong pace should be your reality but check if you’re having higher highs and higher lows. Lower lows are a warning to watch for.

I hope I can sell you on ditching this phrase and introduce you to the following benefits of being curious about what is working:

  • Development opportunities: By giving thought to what is working and answering the basic questions (5W1H: Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How) you’ll have the opportunity to further improve the breadwinner of your business and life. Example of two questions to ask: Why is product X selling far more than Y and Z products from my portfolio? Should you further invest in marketing efforts for these products?
  • Ability to replicate: While success is not guaranteed at the replication of strategies, it’s possible to gather insights from what’s working and what are the current conditions that make it work. The conditions from the non-working strategy are certainly impacting negatively the sales strategy or whatever you consider the output of the work in question. Success is not guaranteed because of the old statistics adage that I dare to borrow to bring it here: “Correlation is not causation.” The financial markets version of this is: Past Performance is Not Indicative of Future Results. Therefore, yes, you may want to extract wisdom from what is working, but it may or may not produce the results you expect. Let go of expectations and stick to the facts and data.
  • Reaping wisdom: Most of the knowledge extracted from current situations can be reduced to some basics. Use this collected wisdom to improve your thought process, by associating the gathered lessons with your current knowledge. This association helps you to better retain what you just learned, and don’t just stop there. Take notes, study, try different exercises. Kindle your curious mind and prepare to do some course correction, as you might need to drop your current thinking (usually known as “reinventing yourself”).
  • Improving the standard: Wouldn't be best if you knew your ways within the system? The ins and outs. You should be confident enough to put your hand in without the fear of disrupting a production system or business process.

As always, I wish to have broadened your horizons with this small idea. Until next time.

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