People love traditions.
Traditions are those behaviors with a special significance or meaning that provide a common linkage or bond to bring people together. A tradition provides a human connection that spans race, gender, nationality, and even time. Traditions connect people.
Last week we toured college campuses with my daughter. What an exciting time and an important choice in the life of a teenager. They carefully examine, weigh choices, and explore options for where they will spend the next four to five years in their life. Each school has a set of traditions that have been formed and transformed over time. Some traditions die-out. Some survive. Some stay within the boundaries of active students while other persist into the ranks of the alumni.
During the campus tour it became apparent to me that the traditions of the school were also part of the campus culture. Some of the traditions I heard about centered around athletics. Others focused on student life, student groups, alumni groups. One of them even talked about marriage.
What about business traditions?
Is it a good idea to have traditions in a business? Is it even possible with constant turnover of leadership? Josh Linkner of Inc. Magazine writes about the downside of traditions within a business. Linkner says, “If you think about it, the whole idea of a tradition causes us to turn off our brains. It is the easy, lazy thing to do. Just blindly follow the past so you don’t have to do the hard work of critical thinking in the present.” I often see this when I ask someone why we follow certain processes and they respond that they’ve always done it that way but they don’t know all the reasons why.
I don’t fully agree with Linkner’s stance. What about traditions in the business world that don’t center of work processes or traditions that make for very successful business results? At my previous employer there was annual tradition on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day to give employees the option to take a day of service for their community. Employees could work a normal day or take part part in an organized community service activity (with pay). The company would organize several options within the community for employees to volunteer their time. This tradition brought employees together to honor the ideals and vision of Dr. King while at the same time working to establish relationships with others and benefiting the community.
A few other business traditions that come to mind are chili dogs and onion rings at the Varsity in downtown Atlanta. So maybe it’s not the most healthy food or even the best tasting. But that’s a tradition that keeps people coming back for the experience. It’s good business! The there are LinkedIn HackDays. What started as an internal competition to drive innovation is now benefiting specific groups. Teams organize and compete to develop solutions for real world problems. It’s become a tradition for LinkedIn.
Businesses need traditions.
Businesses need traditions just like any other component of our society. I like traditions because they influence connections between people. With so much in the world trying to tear people apart, traditions represent things that bring people together. Sure, not all traditions are worth keeping. I believe most of those will end naturally because if they don’t benefit people then people will not follow them. So find a tradition in your business, or even make one!