Following Our Best Practices (and Going Off Script)

Whether we’re entrepreneurs, product managers, customer service-focused professionals, or filling any number of other roles in our businesses, we try hard to understand what we’re doing that is working most successfully— and what isn’t. We seek to work with more information so we can be smarter about how we conduct our business.

But that constant analysis of good and bad, right and wrong, can cause us to make decisions about the “right way to do something” that ultimately get us stuck in ruts and routines.

If we become too rigid in our practices, we miss opportunities to grow – and to learn more.

Opportunities to be flexible are ever-present. For example:

  • When a perfect-on-paper job applicant requests to work atypical hours to balance childcare needs;
  • When a long-time customer can no longer afford your product at its current price;
  • When an inspired product idea makes you consider reallocating resources and reworking product roadmaps.

Each of the points above are great opportunities to be flexible, but they come with risks, as well.

Just take a look at that first one. Maybe, through past experiences, you’ve come to believe your team always works better when everyone works the same hours, in the same office. But… what if this potential employee brings an amazing body of knowledge and ideas to your team? Is their input worth you taking a chance on flexible hours? (probably!)

We have rules and procedures in place for reasons, and we make these rules based on what we’ve learned in the past.

But as the political commentator Dan Carlin said, “Wisdom requires a flexible mind.” After a while, there’s not much more to be learned if you continue to always do things the same way, day after day.

As Carrie Abend said in her recent customer-service focused post, sometimes you need to know when to break your own rules. In my experience, flexibility has been a business risk we’ve needed to take periodically. Being flexible in our decision-making has been critical to allowing us to continue to learn and grow.

And it often benefits our customers and employees, as well.