Everyone knows someone who lives by the saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

I believe this is a dangerous lie, especially within organizations.

OK. That may be a bit of a overstatement, but I do think such thinking holds teams and organizations back from experiencing break through moments.

Buying into such rhetoric gives us permission to “pass” on challenging the status quo.

As long as our teams are performing to expectations, general benchmarks, etc., then we can pat ourselves on the back and move on to more pressing matters. The fundamental flaw in this thinking is believing that only things that are broken need to be fixed. Such is not the case.

  • Sometimes things are broken and need to be labeled broken. Pain is what forces us to accept that change is inevitable, necessary, and certain.

  • Sometimes things are broken and need to be discarded. Just because it worked in the past doesn’t mean it will continue to work. Just because it failed in the past, doesn’t mean we should try to perfect and relaunch. Sometimes broken means it’s time to move on.

  • Sometimes things are broken and need to be re-engineered under new assumptions. Don’t mistake broken for not working. Broken is something that isn’t producing profitable results or creating new opportunities for growth and innovation.

The truth is most of the time we are trapped between the tyranny of the urgent and a perception that we have limited ability to create substantive change within an organization.

I have never accepted this reality. And you don’t have to either.

Consider these scenarios:

  • What if the assumptions behind the metrics we are basing strategic decisions upon are the wrong metrics?

  • What if the way we recruit and hire talent needs a revolution rather than a refinement?

  • What if our goal as leaders is greater than “managed decline”?

Too often we accept what others tell us at face value without really examining the evidence that supports such a conclusion or practice. The truth is we are all a few decisions away from a break through. Yet most will never experience it … or perhaps even recognize they are on the brink of something epic.


Because they choose not to see something as broken and instead they see things as efficient, effective, and established. Those qualities are inherently bad but they also shouldn't be justifications to maintain the status quo. When we limit our thinking, we limit the moments when real break through can take place.

Not everything needs to be stripped down and rebuilt. But everything should be evaluated for such a treatment on a regular and rolling basis.

So what’s your next move?

Start forcing yourself to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

There are endless ways to put ourselves in a position to see familiar things with fresh eyes. Here are a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing:

  1. Learn a new app on your computer or mobile device.

  2. Find a different route to the office every day for the next five days.

  3. Order something you’ve never ordered before from your favorite restaurant.

  4. Try something you know you’ll stink at doing.

  5. Read an author you’ve never read before.

  6. Wear socks that don’t match.

  7. Write a handwritten note instead of an email.

  8. Try to teach a four-year-old something you think is easy.

How to break things in hopes of a break through:

  1. Stop accepting today as normal.

  2. Start challenging and validating the assumptions behind the decisions we make.

  3. Come up with three different ways to achieve or accomplish the same outcome by which you are measured.

  4. Cancel every existing project (relax … just for a day) and ask your team to justify each project and how it will help your organization achieve its corporate goals.

  5. Accept the fact that you might be wrong … and that you might be right.

  6. Believe that innovation is more important than safety.

  7. Recognize that the outcomes you’ve set for yourself, your team, and your organization may not be the best ones.

Breaking things is fun. (I’m not going to lie.) But what’s even more fun is learning how to put the pieces back together again. That is the adventure we must give ourselves permission to pursue. It is the only hope we have of changing our future and creating new possibilities and endless success stories in the days, weeks, months, and years ahead.

Breaking things reminds leaders why we wanted to lead an organization in the first place—to make a contribution worth noting.

It’s hard to remember people who just accepted reality, sat in the corner, and checked the box. It’s the ones who are willing to question the generally accepted answers and challenge readily applauded outcomes who create limitless heights for people and organizations. It can be a bloody battlefield at times, but it’s the only way we can know we are truly alive and not simply leading while asleep at the wheel.

What do you need to break, even if it’s not technically broken?

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