A young kid is watching their parents cooking dinner, a roast, to be precise. Just before putting the meal in the oven, one parent slices off the top bit of the roast and then sticks it in the roasting pan. The child, curious as always, asks, “Why do you do that?”
The parents look at each other for an explanation and realize they aren’t sure. They learned it that way from their parents.
A few weeks later, they visit the grandparents and ask about the origin of the slicing. It so happens that the great-grandparents are visiting and overhear this conversation. They pack out laughing and explain, “everyone learned this from us!”
We didn’t have much money, our house was tiny, and so were our oven and pan. The only way to make a full roast fit was to remove pieces.
I love this story since it illustrates what I see us doing in companies all the time. We borrow practices from others without considering the reasons or circumstances that lead them to do it that way.
Just because something gets used elsewhere doesn’t make it suitable for our context. (Or even for theirs, but that’s another story)
After four years at Spotify, I lost count of how many companies tried to copy us. And while I think there is plenty of learning from mimicking others, eventually, we have to ask, “why are they doing it that way?”
This story opens one of my Keynote talks
You can watch a recording of this talk here