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The way it HASN’T always been done

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How many times have you grudgingly accepted a way to do something – even if it didn’t feel right to you – just because that’s how it had always been done?

How many times have you had a different idea, a feeling that there must be a better solution, or simply felt uncomfortable with the suggested way? How many times have you felt that just because it has always been done that way, doesn’t make it the right way, or the better way?

What did you do?

Did you try to find a better solution? Did you try to convince others? Did you give up at the slightest hint of criticism?

I admit that many times I have given up before even starting to challenge that intimidating “way it has always been done.”

Because surely if there was a better way, someone would have already found it, right? Who am I to tell others – possibly with more experience than me – that my way is better than theirs? I have no proof. Except for a gut feeling. And that’s bound to be wrong… isn’t it?

Actually, it isn’t. I have found that my gut feeling is pretty damn accurate most of the time. And guess what?

So is yours.

You know when you feel really strongly about something? That there is no way this could work for you? That you must try this other way instead?

Listen to your gut. It knows what it’s talking about.

Let me rephrase that question, then:

Who are you NOT to tell them that “the way it has always been done” isn’t necessarily the best way? What if your way turns out to be much better for many others? Can you really risk not trying?

While I haven’t always challenged “the way it has always been done,” there are many times when I did.

I do not regret a single one of those times.

Challenging the way it’s always been done has always resulted in something positive – even if it wasn’t always accepted right away; even if, often, I had to demonstrate that my way worked by sticking to it for a while, all by myself.

People are reluctant to accept change; that’s our nature.

We tend to be skeptical of anything truly different. Looking at the initial tests for new ideas is proof of that.

The Mary Tyler Moore show pilot was a complete disaster. It was quite different from the hit shows at the time, and the viewers almost unanimously declared they hated it. The characters were not believable, they were abrasive and unappealing. A woman who put her career before having a family was impossible to relate to, they said*.

It aired anyway, because it was already scheduled for broadcast at the time it was tested.

We all know what happened after, of course. The Mary Tyler Moore show became a household name, went on to win all kinds of awards, and set a standard for all the shows to come.

But how is it possible that the first reaction was so negative? Simple: the viewers were shocked. It was unlike something they had ever seen before. And shock is perceived as a negative emotion. Then, once they got used to it, once it wasn’t so shocking anymore, it became interesting. Hate turned into love (though not at first sight).

(*source: Blink by Malcolm Gladwell)

This is why big companies rarely launch something truly new and different, or even introduce significant changes to the way their service is delivered – they rely on those market tests way too much.

Guess what though? We, as entrepreneurs and smaller companies, have it much easier than those big corporate structures where all decisions are made by committee — even such mundane things as choosing black ink pens over blue ones. We don’t have to answer to anyone, we don’t have to prepare presentations and focus group results in order to do something different.

All we have to do is make a decision, and stick to it.

I am not necessarily talking about creating a completely new and different product, or giving up what you do in order to find an elusive product or service that doesn’t exist yet, but that is bound to become the next best thing since sliced bread. (Though if that’s what you truly want, who am I to stop you?)

What I am talking about is not necessarily following the accepted, the so-called tried-and-true way to do things if it doesn’t feel right for us.

You don’t have to compete with the bigger companies on price just because all other smaller companies in your line of work do just that. You can offer customized products for every customer instead, something a bigger company would not be able to do.

You don’t have to put your photo in the header just because all the how-to-relate-to-your-customers articles tell you to. Tell a story instead, and put the photo there. Or omit it altogether, and focus on products.

You don’t have to market your product as a gift, even if that’s the biggest accepted niche for it. You can promote its other uses instead, and find smaller niches that nobody else has tapped into.

You don’t have to write long persuasive articles on your blog if writing isn’t your thing, even though all your competitors are doing it. You can keep it short and sweet, or post thought-provoking questions, or show off your products in a series of photos or videos.

You don’t have to do anything that doesn’t feel right.

You can always find an alternative that works better for you.

And I know plenty of you are doing it. All the examples above are inspired by real people who are making the way it HASN’T always been done work to their best advantage.

Help me expand this inspirational list of examples! How are you challenging “the way it has always been done”? Tell me in the comments!