Wednesday, 16 February 2011

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it" is broken

This is an appealing mantra that I have used before. Never really thought too much about it, because it seemed like a reasonable paradigm. Recent events however, have caused me to reconsider this position. One such event is the recent revolt in Egypt. Analysis abounds on the reasons for the revolt and its timing. Much of the focus is on the role of social media and the spread of unrest in the Middle East. What I found interesting however is to look at it from President Mubarak's perspective. By the time he realised the perilous situation he was in and tried to intervene, it was already too late. This is the danger of the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" ideology. By the time "it" is broken, it is possible that it would be too late to fix.

But this realisation by itself is not particularly useful, because at the other end of the spectrum you would have incessant tinkering, which is also not helpful. So the answer lies somewhere in the middle. The challenge then is to allow changes to take root so that they can generate consistent results, yet not leave them too long till it is too late to change. Consider an analogy from the electronics industry. If Apple had stuck to the hugely successful iPod, I doubt it would have reached the success of today. It continued to innovate bringing in products like the iPhone and iPad. Then there is Microsoft. The shine of Bill Gates is waning and I guess only time will tell if this giant can reawaken or has it passed the point of no return.

Sometimes, we have to fix the things that are not broken yet. In fact, a more appropriate metaphor to me now is a swinging pendulum.