This story on Thursday last (Veteran’s Day, oddly enough) caught my eye. Spc. Simran Lamba is the first enlisted Sikh in the US army in over twenty years. Some special provisions were made for his beard and turban, but he has skills the army needs. (That’s the short version. His story is worth reading.)
The same morning, I listened to a discussion about Thanksgiving Day football, and the heretical idea of not having Detroit play. I checked the schedule and saw there has been third game added for that evening. Cincinnati will visit the Jets, because nothing says turkey like Terrel Owens and Chad Johnson Ochocinco.
Have we lost all sense of tradition? These are two examples of Americana. No turbans and beards in the army (I won’t delve into the race/religion/sexual orientation issue just yet), no football Thursday night. That’s how it’s been most of my life. What’s next, Tofurky? How can we just toss these traditions aside?
The answer is, of course, pretty easily. These are outdated ideas that were due for a change. This is about recognizing a change in the environment, be it the skills needed on the team or the desire of your audience for more whatever-they-came-for. It’s not rocket science, but it challenges our ideals, which makes some of us cringe.
How many of the traditions in your workplace are outdated? Refuse to let people work remotely? Insist on silos in your functions? Write policies regulating political contributions? Block Internet access? Just a few that you may have seen. All outdated. And your employees aren’t likely to reach their potential while they are in place.
All things should be questioned, especially traditions. They are the most dangerous kind of tribal knowledge, since so often we don’t know where they come from. If you are in the habit of asking questions without assumptions, these areas are ripe for improvement.