There are many things I like a great deal and quite a few things I am not fond of. I like to get up every morning at the same time and always like to start my day with strong black coffee. I go to the fitness center every morning at the same time. I drive the same way to work each day. I like to sit in the same seat each day in any Face-to-Face meeting. I am not happy when any of these things don’t work out. I am distraught if anyone sits in my seat (anywhere) and it is not a nice experience if I oversleep or – worse still – miss my early day caffeine fix.
I am a creature of habit.
And in many situations this can be a good thing. No-one’s quite sure who first suggested the definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over and expect different results. But that’s fine – although I use this expression a lot I never take any credit for it. But the concept resonates with me. Although I do many things over and over…I do so because I expect the same result – the same good results.
On the other hand, it would be peculiar if I found myself in terrible traffic each day as I drove to work…and yet I continued to drive that same route and time. Or if I found an increase in early morning fitness junkies meant there were never any cross trainers open…and yet I continued to exercise at the same time each day.
I thought about that well known definition of insanity last week as we experienced the Christmas holidays in the UK – a time of year when the same ‘fixed events’ happen over and over again…and the results are seldom different. There are superb results. This time of year is time to do good and fun things with families…and for families. And not such good results…problems with battery sizes, connecting to WiFi networks and over-(and/or under)-cooking meat.
I thought about that well known definition when I realised how often I hear the suggestion that we should do something in a certain way because we always do it that way. I hear this at home and at work; with friends and with family; within our industry and in our company. And every time I hear it my heart sinks…and then it soars.
My heart sinks when I realise we are at risk of doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. And then my heart soars when I realise that I am being presented with an opportunity to do something different to achieve a different outcome.
And that soaring can reach quite impressive heights. It does not take much of a change to have significant impact on results. We all know that as scientists…or chefs…or parents…or leaders. We always want to improve our outcomes. We always want better outcomes. And so making a change in what we do…or when …or how…is all it takes.
Even making a small change always drives excitement. This is the moment when anticipation is at its highest. What will happen? Who will be involved? How much better can it be? How much influence will be needed?
But even making a small change can be hard. There is an element of the unknown. It is not as comfortable. There is more stretch. But we have to have faith – faith in our instincts, and our choices.
I have to start. I should change those habits. Enjoy a lie in, cycle to work…or maybe even chose a different seat…