Are You Sure That Will Work?

Have you ever tried to introduce an idea at work only to have your co-workers say things like, 'That won't work here." Or," we tried that in 2004 and it didn't work then - so it isn't going to work now."

Sound familiar? Sure it does. That kind of response is based on, what I believe to be, a faulty premise. At the heart of this kind of thinking is a belief that goes something like this; if you've already tried something and it didn't work, don't bother trying it again. Sounds good, but it's simply not true.

The fallacy of that reasoning was so clearly demonstrated in the 1978 movie Same Time Next Year. The plot involves Alan Alda and Ellen Burstyn's characters who meet by chance at a remote, romantic inn during dinner. Although both are married to other people, they end up spending the night together. They are wildly attracted to each other and agree that, although they are married, they will get together on the same weekend each year after that.

Each new scene of the movie opens with them arriving at the inn each successive year, always staying in the same room. They never miss a year, and every few years they seem to take on new personas. One year, Alda's character is buttoned-up corporate; stiff and angry, while Burstyn's character has just gone back to university (in the 60's) and is radical in both fashion and philosophy. A few years later Ellen has started a business and has taken on a touch, 'take-no-prisoners' approach to life. That same year Alda confesses to having gone through personal therapy and has morphed into a softer, more open-minded version of his former self.

Each year they have to adjust and re-acquaint themselves with the 'new' people they've become. They manage to make the adjustments and continue to find enough common ground between them to sustain the relationship for twenty-six years.

It's fascinating to see these two characters come back to the same hotel room, walk the same beach, eat at the same diner and yet be so very different year after year. It speaks to something fundamental about change, that is; the same place, same activities and even the same intent DO NOT equal the same result. Why - because, things change.

Alda and Burstyn's characters changed, they grew; their capacity for love, acceptance, awareness, their tolerance levels, perspectives, family configurations, skills, circumstances and motivators changed from year to year. What they wanted out of life, and their clandestine relationship, changed. All of those shifts contributed to the end result of the weekend being different. At times it was pure lust, on other weekends there were times of deep emotional sharing. One year Alda even delivered Burstyn's baby. I know - Hollywood.

The principle is this; you or your team or organization may have tried something before, but before is not now. You are different, your customer is different, the market has shifted, skill sets have changed and even the will of the people to succeed may be different.

So, don't throw away an idea just because you or others have tried it before. This time, this year may just be the year it works!