Standardization versus Repitition

I wrote last time that I felt that it was important for anyone who wants to create a brand identity based around themselves to go through a process of education and developing skills as a journeyman/woman.  Let’s be clear though there is a HUGE difference between 9 years of experience and doing the same 1 year of experience nine times.  There is a fundamental difference between being very good at doing the basics and understanding how to cover the basics from a business perspective.

I know some people who can make phenomenal slide shows.  Other folks can write a particular strong of code better and faster than other designers.  I also know some gurus of spread sheet making who can do things with Excel that I can’t even fathom.  I have seen people run software that crunches statistical data in new and creative ways.  All of these skills overlap into my business field, but the danger that we face is finding ourselves sealed away in a cubicle mastering the tricks in our Office software and applying them over and over again without ever going out and bringing the outside in.  We become experts, valuable cogs in a factory model, but we miss making the step to see the whole picture and understand our true value to the market.

Did Ben Franklin drink the Kool-Aid, this historical rendering seems to indicate he did...

Ben Franklin is attributed with saying, “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing but expecting different results.”  I would go one step forward and say that it is even more insane to think that just because we know how to do one thing well and we have been doing it for years that we think the right new thing to do is to take that thing and keep doing just independently like we did in our old factory lifestyle.  In fact in this day and age the Factory model of thinking would very much look like insanity to Mr. Franklin.

Before you break away to be the Master of Your Destiny, and believe me I think you should, ask yourself these questions?

  1. Have I brought the outside in?  Do I have a complete picture for how to apply this skill to meet my clients’ needs rather than my employers’?
  2. Have I been doing the same thing over and over?  Do I have experience in doing business with my craft or am I experienced in only one aspect of my craft and not the business?
  3. Will I feel satisfied with my life and work ten years from now, or will it become routine?  Will I try to replicate a factory approach to what makes me special?

Let’s be clear factories are not inherently bad, but a factory lifestyle and way of thinking is.  A factory makes stuff, and stuff is not inherently bad.  Taking the people factor out creating or the creativity out of creativity though is what traditional factory thinking has mastered.  It creates repetition.  It asks us to stop looking for newer better ways.  It teaches us that change is bad and that adaptability is not an essential aspect of work.  People with factory thinking will always be left behind by people with an entrepreneurial mindset.  To quote Ricky Bobby, “It’s the fastest who get paid.” and agility and speed are not part of a factory mindset.

But anyone who wants to be great will tell you that Eli Whitney had a good idea when he brought about a revolution based on interchangeable mass produced parts.  He created a mind set of efficiency that was later co-opted by factory thinkers.  Be efficient, standardize the methods of production and practices that drive your economic engine to promote speed and adaptability.  Don’t stick your thinking in a cubicle and demand repetition that is the definition of insanity.

This came out of writing a training report today.  The definition of repetition and boredom in my job.  I like the direction my reports have gone over the years.  For a core leadership program I can generate a standard 1 page report in about 5-6 hours.  A lot of this is through standardization.  My reports or some of the best (to toot my own horn the best) I have seen in the China market, but one of the challenges was to figure out how to simplify the process while customizing the result.  The same with workbook creation.  Excellent results, highly flexible, almost fun to do.  The break through was understanding why reports mattered to a client and not just knowing how a report should look and feeling good about the product I give to my client…

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2 thoughts on “Standardization versus Repitition

  1. This shows an incredible amount of insight that appears to be universally applicable. I am sitting at the US Postal Training Facility, doing a training broadcast and I realize my entire organization is stuck in the factory mindset. From my coworkers to the Postmaster General – all off these people have been stuck in the mindset that all they needed to learn about business, they learned in the early 90’s. My coworkers have been here over a decade and a half and have no idea what digital formats are available.

    This is the source of my frustration that has me looking for jobs elsewhere. The hiearchy here has refused to adapt to the climate, and the balance sheet for the post office is going the way of the dodo bird.

    • Isn’t the early 90’s before Al Gore created the internet?! I mean who sends mail? Anyway I’ll tread carefully here since Seinfeld taught me to be careful of the post master general.

      You might find Seth Godin’s book Tribe’s interesting. He has a fair amount to say about a factory mindset and what he calls “Sheepwalking.” Sounds like the US Postal service has a fair amount of sheepwalkers who are pushing that mindset because it is much more comfortable to be “stable” than changing. Good luck on finding something that is a better fit, I can’t see you fitting in happily to culture with a factory mindset you’ve always been a lot happier in settings that let you ask intelligent questions about doubtful practices!

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