The Most Feared Words: Because They Said So

The meeting was between me and one other who was trying to use Twitter for public outreach.  I gave a suggestion and this is how the conversation went…

THEM: “We can’t do that.”

ME: “Why not?”

“Because they won’t allow us.”

“Why not?”

“Because that is what they said.  They never have let us.”

“But why not?”

“They would have a coronary if we asked them.  They just won’t allow it.”

“That’s not good enough, why not?”

By this time I was trying to turn this in to a teaching moment and  at the same time remain calm that this person could not get past the “because they said so” syndrome.  On the other hand they just became more exasperated  that I dare challenge the invisible barrier that was before us and always has been.

The conversation continued.  I suggested that they question the decision and then gave an example.  One of the requirements I had was to be able to access the system we were talking about from home without VPN.  Before finishing the story, she laughed with the response, “Ya, they would NEVER allow that.”  I came back, “They already have.  They freaked out when I first suggested it, and even for months afterwards, but they did it.” She was beside herself, but also learned that there are some barriers worth questioning.

In the end we determined that Twitter was not a good tool for them to use in this context.  As we left the meeting we ran into a colleague of hers.  “We are not going to use Twitter,” she was told.

“But they told us they wanted us to use Twitter,” her colleague emphatically said.  She looked at me and smiled, knowing what I would have said in that moment.

The lesson: Challenge the assumptions upon which we base decisions.  When you run into a stone that you think doesn’t belong there, try to turn it over and see why it is there.  Is it tradition?  Or is it for a solid business reason?