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« Three Mistakes an Employee should avoid (Laughter is the best stress reliever) *Reposted from June 12th,2008* | Main | Choose Action »

September 13, 2012


Comments in the original publication in 2007

Very clever.

Posted by: Ching | September 19, 2007 at 03:35 PM

Nice thoughts!

Posted by: Mike Eneluna | September 19, 2007 at 07:10 PM

I looked at this blog intrigued by the word "atrocities". I have to say I've worked in some pretty horrendous office environments but I feel that the word "atrocity" should really be reserved for things like genocide, false imprisonment, torture and murder...but anyway.

The point that we often continue doing things the way we did them before...just because we did them before is very true - however as Donald A Norman points out in his seminal book "Things That Make Us Smart", there are often unintended positive consequences of the ways in which things are done, and when creating new processes it is important to be sure that we don't throw the baby out with the bathwater.

For example, in aeroplanes the pilot and copilot steered using large control wheels - they had one each and they were mechanically linked. They needed to be big as you would need some leverage to be able to control the plane manually. Aircraft have tended to copy this design, even though all the controls are relayed through computers and there is no mechanical linkage between any of the controls in the cockpit and the flaps/elevators/rudders [please forgive me aeronautics buffs for my shoddy use of jargon].

Now for its new all-electronic planes, airbus introduced small joysticks. The copilots and pilots joysticks weren't linked, and it's not immediately obvious to the user what the other guy is doing.

This has apparently resulted in cases where no-one has been flying the plane - as each thought the other was doing it - and where each have thought *they* were flying the plane, when in fact only one was.

That isn't to say that we should always do things one way because we always have - but at the same time when advocating change it's very important to look at the value, both explicit and implicit, in the current arrangement.

Just my tuppence worth...have a great weekend and thanks for the inspiring thoughts.
Posted by: Leon Markham | September 21, 2007 at 04:12 AM

I also agree with this thought. I have seen it happen and also frustrate a lot of people, including me, personally. I have written on this topic on my blog, indirectly- Have a nice weekend! Posted by: Jennifer | September 21, 2007 at 05:01 AM

In relation to the third cartoon - the man is still doing it the old way for a simple reason - that's the way he has always done it! One point I would make is that is that there is a common misconception that older people are the only people who are susceptible to the 'that's the way we've always done it' syndrome. Young people are susceptible to this problem as well. I am only 30 and yet I have noticed myself fall into this type of trap from time to time, both in my professional life and my personal life. Anyone, of any age, can get stuck in this mindset, particularly if they are reluctant to try new things and make in their life on a regular basis. Cheers Andrew Posted by: Andrew | September 22, 2007 at 01:33 AM

Mark Dennen

And for more than 10,000 years the Grizzly and Black Bears have made their trek to a den after the first snowfall so as to avoid being tracked and eaten by the saber-toothed cats. The cats are gone and the bears live on so there is something to be said for tradition and risk management.


Good points… and perhaps why one reason why LEAN is so important… helps to break us out of old habits and see what now may actually be obsolete.

Thanks for sharing

Best regards

Micro-CEO in training

Thanks. Very good examples of why we continue to do things even after the practical value is lost. So it is that my religion by birthright is chock full of rules and conventions that had real and practical value for a people living thousands of years ago. Now, the chief value of such conventions is to bind together the descendents of those people by giving them something to study and practice in common, something that can help define a group identity. This is known as "ritual".

Lao Tzu wrote:
"When the Tao is lost, there is 'virtue'
When virtue is lost, there is 'benevolence'
When benevolence is lost, there is 'justice'
When justice is lost, there is 'ritual'.
Ritual is the husk of faith and loyalty,
the beginning of confusion."


I guess there are some cases (like the qwerty typewriter) in which circumstances change, but corresponding methods or elaborations are not so easily changed. Why? Potentially causing great confusion and even harm.

One example that comes to mind was the decision by Ben Franklin to denote current flowing in an electrical circuit with plus and minus signs. He assumed that there were positively charged particles flowing (from plus to minus). He had a 50% chance of being right, but he was not. Later (since 1897) science understood that the things moving were negatively charged electrons. It should have called for a correction in the notation and reversal of all those arrows. But the notations were never changed, and we still live with the paradox today. Perhaps this engineering problem even helped to usher in the theory of semi-conductors with imaginary "electron holes" moving through a crystal lattice material.


There is an study about this.
They took a monkey into a metal cage, where there were bananas at the ceiling, and stairs to can take them. When the monkey tried to catch a banana, all the cage was electrified, so the monkey wouldn't try again.
Another monkey was put into the cage. He was going to catch a banana and the first one didn't let him.
Another monkey, same situation. When there were a group of monkeys, the take out the first one, -the only one who was actually electrified-.
What happend? The monkeys hit each others when they try to touch a banana, even they didn't know why.

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