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The Most Dangerous Phrase

The Most Dangerous Phrase

by Jay Miutz

The most dangerous phrase in the English language is,"we've always done it this way."

 The first time I was ever exposed to this quote was back in my days as a history major at The College of William & Mary. During that time, I mostly just used the words as a bland filler for various research papers or to get a few extra points on an exam. It was one of those quotes that seemed so stereotypical and easily digestible that I had admittedly attributed it incorrectly to generals, philosophers and scholars over the course of four years.

In reality, the statement was made by Grace Hopper, an amazing pioneer in computer science. A strong spirited woman who rose up the ranks of the Navy by seeing the true potential of computer technologies, helping get them where they are today. By looking deeper into this statement and the woman who made it, I have grown to have much greater appreciation for it. I used to think it was simple, and easily inserted into a PowerPoint Presentation, but that simplicity is what makes it so profound.

“We’ve always done it this way”

How many times have we heard that phrase uttered before, be it at the ballot box, the board room or by our mothers and fathers? If you are like me, then you have heard it at least a thousand times, and every time it has pushed your buttons. Why? Because times have changed and are continuing to change, innovation is a business tool now, a tool that brings progress and success equally. Grace Hopper had the ability to look past what was being called adequate or acceptable and see what the next step would be. Why is being content so dangerous? Because we become stagnant. We stop being afraid of what we have overcome and what may come next and we just accept the idea of standing still. If we stand still, how can we be expected to get anywhere? Or see anything? Or meet anyone?

We won’t.

The most dangerous phrase in the English language is “we’ve always done it this way.”

As an active member of the business community, your job is to keep moving, to push yourself and the limits around you. Businesses needs to grow, to expand and to find success by reaching people. Don’t just keep doing the same thing; mix it up, make a change and then handle the results. 

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