Home > Leadership, The Monday Musings Column > there is nothing wrong in recycling old ideas

there is nothing wrong in recycling old ideas

I suppose it is one of those signs of having been around for a long time; that feeling that you get when the next new thing that folks are raving about just gives you a sense of déjà vu and the old saying that there is nothing new under the sun begins to look pretty solid. In an age where recycling is a big ticket item the recycling of old ideas probably makes a lot of sense anyway.

This isn’t meant as a cynical commentary because I think that it is good for current generations to pick up on old ideas and make something of them, or even to come up with things that they believe to be new and innovative even when they are actually tried, tested and forgotten concepts. It doesn’t matter.

Sometimes modern technology or production methods can make an old idea worth looking at and there is always the general cycle of business, and life in general, that see things go away and then come back; what goes around comes around. As long as it is useful it doesn’t matter.

One of the things that got me onto this topic was stand up workstations where there seems to be a sudden upsurge in interest, but these are nothing new, they have been around since the first days of someone needing a surface to work on; the carpenter’s bench for example. In modern terms the option of having somewhere that you can stand for a short while and use your portable device is fine for such furniture does not take up too much space and ergonomically they are fine for short term use too, as is the bar stool plus flat surface concept.

Twenty or so years ago we looked at some high tables about a metre in diameter that were intended for short duration meetings between small groups of, say, two to four people. Having installed a couple to try out it was interesting to see the reaction. Like a certain brown spread some loved them and others hated them, but they got so little use that we would have disposed of them had not one senior manager asked if the table could be moved into their working area and we were happy to oblige. They lasted until that manager moved on about a year later and then we sold them off. Laptops were relatively new back then, telephones were used for making or receiving calls and tablets had not entered the fray so perhaps we were too early on the scene with our stand up desks.

Just because something is not new it should not be discounted. One of the first things that irritated me as a manager was when someone used the “tried that; didn’t work” approach. I can accept “we tried that, but it didn’t work out because…”, but just shutting your mind to opportunities is to take the road to failure and there is always a right time for every idea. For anything that had failed there will be myriad reasons why and many of the factors that made it fail last time may have changed, so be prepared to consider anything.

When you are looking for ideas a trawl through history can sometimes point you in the direction of all sorts of things that might be just what you are looking for now. So if you are stuck for something new why not try recycling an old idea? It may turn out to be a great one for here and now.

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