Leaving Well Enough Alone – Coronado Eagle & Journal | Coronado News | Coronado Island News: Opinion

As humans, we are averse to change. That’s why the status quo, even if it is suboptimal, has an advantage over something new. If something is clearly broken, you might replace it or fix it. But, absent impending doom, people tend to want to keep things the way they are.

But, sometimes change is good. It’s just hard to gauge whether there will be a positive outcome to change and, if so, if it is enough to justify whatever the cost is of making that change. A friend of mine recently mentioned that she has long suffered from snoring, but that it didn’t really matter because it didn’t bother her and she lives by herself, so it didn’t bother anyone else, either. Additionally, she never bothered mentioning it to a doctor because she said she felt fine. However, a doctor recently prescribed a sleep study because my friend had been feeling exhausted. To her surprise, the study found that she had sleep apnea and could benefit from a CPAP machine. She got the machine and said she has never felt better. She had clearly been suffering, but it had come on slowly enough that she didn’t recognize it. Also, she was averse to change. And, as they say, we should “leave well enough alone.” My friend now says, maybe not.

In a prior career, I worked as a strategic management consultant, advising firms on a host of management issues. This always involved us going into a firm and taking a deep dive into their processes and internal data and asking employees questions that they might not necessarily ask themselves, like: “Why do you do it this way?” The answer we most often received to that question was: “That’s the way we’ve always done it.”

Firms, like my friend, are also often averse to change, or just don’t think about it. The problem, of course, is that just because one might have “always” done something one way doesn’t mean that it is the best way. Or, maybe it’s not the best way for all circumstances. Or, maybe it’s not the best way anymore.

We challenged ourselves and others to question and to consider alternatives that might even seem outlandish. By doing that, we often found that the alternatives were not outlandish or that there was another way of doing it that was superior – or, at a minimum, might save money. Of course, sometimes we found that the way something was always done really was the best way. But, without going through to process of critically considering alternatives, firms avoid the possibility of improvement.

When looking at cost cutting, in particular, there was a real-world example (before 2008) that we could always direct clients to look at for inspiration: Bear Stearns. This investment bank, prior to its spectacular collapse, was famous on Wall Street for its extreme frugality in the distribution of office supplies to its employees. Former employees noted that they were not given office supplies at all or were offered some 50 rubber bands and a box of paper clips and prompted to use them wisely as they would not be getting any more.

As a brainstorming exercise, then, a firm might be asked to consider two things simultaneously – how much it spends on supplies and how it could run its current business while expending $0 on supplies. While the exercise might seem crazy because, after all, the likelihood of reducing expenditures to $0 is pretty low, still it makes you think. And, sometimes you realize that it might be worth it to behave differently in order to save that amount of money. Or, it might be worth it to behave differently if you could even save a good part of that money.

It is in this spirit of inquiry that we are launching a regular column considering why we, in Coronado, do things the way we do (versus another way), and whether there are alternatives that might proved valuable to us. The questioning of an institution or a practice is not meant to be an indictment. And, the topics considered will not focus necessarily on cost-cutting or money saving ideas. Rather, this column should be considered more as an exploration of ideas or brainstorming as a community.

We are interested in exploring topics related to the schools, city, beach, community and our values. And, we are interested in hearing what you are interested in exploring. To that end, we invite you to send in your ideas for topics to explore. And, we also invite you to offer other points of view by sending in your responses to our columns.

If you have a topic that begs the question, “why this and not that?” – please email your subject to:


with a subject line of, “why this, not that?”

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