Traditions are precious because they foster consistency, identity creation, strengthen a movement, and establish protective boundaries. If you want to build to last, you need to develop a tradition that can pass on for generations. Unfortunately, humans tend to abuse every good thing and take it to the extreme. When we love a movie, we watch it until we can’t stand it anymore. When we love a delicacy, we eat it until we lose the taste for it. When we love a person, we become overprotective. And when we have a good tradition, we make it a law cast in iron. Traditions evolve, which means they become refined with time. They are established as a means to an end, but with time, we tend to make the means more significant than the end. Traditions as building blocks usually become stumbling blocks when they:
- Become outdated: a few months ago, it was unexpected that almost the entire world would shutdown most physical activities and migrate en masse to the Internet because of COVID-19. But that is our reality today. Conference calls, chats, online classrooms, webinars, etc. have suddenly become a necessity. This has mostly redefined our concept of business. Organisations must now redefine their traditions to embrace technology.
- Focus too much on the past: custodians of beliefs and principles handed down tend to ensure that people are tied to it. Some organisations still practise traditions that managers are no longer in touch with how or why they started. Understanding is what empowers tradition. No one should be compelled to adhere to a set of principles without first being inducted into its purposes and functions. When you know why you do what you do, your faith will not be based on someone else’s conviction. Knowledge drives you towards the future, while ignorance chains you to the past.
- Assume too much: when traditions become rigid, they fail to take into consideration that the only constant thing in life is change. Rigid traditions assume things will remain the same way indefinitely. When traditions are sustainable, they establish principles for a generation without robbing future generations of the opportunity to establish theirs. Are traditions good? Absolutely! Are they sacrosanct? No! Tradition should respond to and evolve with the purpose of its creation. It must never stand in the way of progress. Never hold onto a tradition until you become irrelevant. Compromise is when you change your goal to suit your tradition. Progress is when you change your tradition to suit your goal.