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“We always do it this way” as a new weapon of change

Faizan Patankar on 21 April 2019

In 2018 I took the role of Venturing and Incubation Lead for R2 Data Labs at Rolls-Royce. I wanted to change some things and move the needle on change.

At the time I wanted to disrupt the statement, “We always do it this way”.

Now, I want to make that statement my objective.

Let me talk about birds for a moment.

Crows specifically.

See this video on crows http://www.bbc.com/earth/storyoflife/player?clipID=20160713-crows-use-cars-to-crack-nuts

Crows learnt to break walnuts by dropping them from a height. Some nuts wouldn’t crack at first attempt and it would take a few attempts. In these cases, the crows would have to work hard to crack the nut.

Some smart crows realised that a moving car would easily crack the nut. And collecting the prize would be easier if it was done next to a pedestrian crossing or at the exit from a car park. Because the vehicles slow down and the crow has the chance to take the cracked nut.

What’s interesting is, this trick was rapidly picked up by other crows. The other crows learnt this and the method spread.

Why do crows crack nuts near the parking lot?

Because other crows did. And that’s how they always do it.

There isn’t a school for crows. They learn from each other. They follow what crows do. And the new thing becomes the only way of doing things.

I find that interesting.

I realised that multiple systems will not work in harmony in a corporate. You can’t say for some projects, we do it this way. It being slow, bureaucratic, and unimaginative. Whilst other projects, working with the startup ecosystem are done that way. A different way, which is fast, creative, and efficient.

It is important that there is only one way of doing things, and that’s the right way.

Don’t look for an easy answer. Change the way things are done. Make the new way of doing things “it’s always done this way”.

That’s a challenge.

But what we do is not disruptive, or different, the key is to drive the change for everyone to accept that “we always do it this way”.