At Work, Question Doing What You've Always Done

Are you following the best practice, or are you doing what you're doing because that's the way it's done?

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Many years ago, my grandparents had a housekeeper. She was a wonderful cleaner and a delightful woman. However, during the summer months, she would open their freezer and throw out any ice cream she found in there. Why? Because everybody knows that you don't eat cold things when it is hot. It will make you sick. It was her valiant efforts that kept my grandparents healthy.

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My grandparents resorted to wrapping their ice cream in freezer paper with misleading labels on it. Because, of course, everybody knows that eating ice cream when it is hot is the best thing you can possibly do.

Now, why are you reading this little anecdote in a career column? Because either my grandparents or their cleaning lady were wrong. This is something you could do a study on. (I would be happy to volunteer, as long as I can be in the ice cream eating group.) But, it wasn't science or facts that were influencing actions, it was culture. Your culture can override scientific knowledge and another culture's idea of common sense.

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In your job, are you doing what the best practice is, or are you doing what you're doing because that's the way it's done? I mean that in the nicest possible sense.

Business, of course, is not quite so easily conquered as doing a double-blind study. But, it doesn't hurt to get another opinion. This is where true diversity comes in. Getting people from different backgrounds into your group can help you evaluate whether or not you're doing what is best for your business or if you're doing what you've always done.

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What you've always done may not be the wrong thing. And you don't want to paralyze your business by endlessly trying new methods in order to come up with the best one. But, open your mind to the possibility that it's your culture that is influencing you, Be willing to listen to someone who says, “Maybe we should try something different. Maybe this isn't the obvious way to do things.”

Try it and you just may find out that it's always OK to eat ice cream.

Suzanne Lucas has nine years of human resources experience, most of which have been in a Fortune 500-company setting. She holds a Professional in Human Resources certificate from the Society for Human Resource Management. She blogs at Evil HR Lady.

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