Breaking Tradition: Eliminate Obsolete Practices and Grow Your Business

Change is scary and difficult. There’s no guarantee that it will bring success. So, why do it now?

Tradition is safe, easy and has brought your small business success … to a certain point. So, why change now?

All too often, the urge to uphold existing methods can be detrimental to business growth. Times change, and if you want your business to stay current it has to change with them or be left behind. Not convinced? Just look at Google.

In the late ‘90s, Microsoft dominated the PC space to the point that an antitrust suit was leveled against it for bundling Internet Explorer with Windows in 1998.  A few years later Google exploded onto the scene when it revolutionized the search engine. It wasn’t long before the technology giant created Chrome in 2008, a popular web browser used by 43% of internet users worldwide, debunking the myth that a browser coupled with an operating system restricts competition.

If Google hadn’t broken with tradition, it likely wouldn’t be the multinational juggernaut it is today spanning from online advertising technologies and search to cloud computing and software. But breaking tradition isn’t just for enterprise companies. Your small business can successfully break tradition and achieve tremendous growth, too.


How To Break The Mold

When analyzing where to abandon tradition and pursue innovation, there are three main things you should do:


  1. Examine your industry. Identify traditions and ways of doing things that are begging for re-examination.
  2. Look internally. Find practices that once made perfect sense but have become unnecessary or detrimental due to company and industry maturation.
  3. Crowdsource. Involve employees, customers and stakeholders in uncovering traditions that are no longer serving you well. As a leader within the organization, sometimes you’re too close to the traditions to spot the outdated ones. When you involve employees and customers in the discussion, they might recognize opportunities for growth that you would not have seen.

Out With The Old

Once you’ve identified the traditions that must evolve or be left behind, there are a few things to do before moving forward:


  1. Determine whether a tradition is still valuable. Sometimes, long-standing traditions offer a great deal of value and don’t need to be done away with entirely — just revamped. In other cases, traditions have to be gently moved to the museum. Be intentional about deciding whether or not traditional practices are useful.
  2. Remember that change is not an attack on the past. Just about every process and method can be refined, leading to waste elimination, reduced cycle time, improved customer satisfaction and a number of other benefits. The initial difficulty is sometimes simply recognizing that there might be a better way of doing things. But just because there’s a better way of doing things doesn’t mean people were doing it incorrectly up until that point. Be careful to honor the past, but also learn from it.
  3. Seek subject-matter expertise. Once the need for change is recognized, many business leaders struggle because they don’t have in-house expertise and resources needed to implement it. You may need to call in someone from the outside who can guide and train your staff to carry the torch and continue changing for the better.

Change is scary and difficult. There’s no guarantee that it will bring success. So, why do it now? When you let go of unnecessary traditions, you’re seizing the opportunity to push your business into the future. If you involve your staff, customers and stakeholders in the initial evaluation of what needs to be improved, it will be much easier to identify weak areas and develop innovative ways to revamp them. It’s risky, but it’s worth it. The proof will be in your bottom line.


Chris Cancialosi, Ph.D., is Managing Partner and Founder of gothamCulture, is a recognized expert in the field of leader and organizational development with particular focus on the leader’s role in shaping high-performing culture.


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