How to avoid reinventing the wheel

 May 13, 2015

There’s never enough time, yet we still manage to reinvent the wheel!

Recently, I was reminded of the fact that I probably waste a lot of time reinventing the wheel. What I’m referring to is the instance where I put something together, such as a training course, or a procedure, only to discover down the line, that this already exists in some form or another, and that I've essentially, wasted my time.

And time is the one thing we don’t have and always want more of, right?

So I set about thinking what could allow us to save time, avoid duplication, and be more productive and here are some ideas.

Talk to each other

I feel that I talk my heart out, but sometimes we have to extend the range of people with whom we need to be talking to. It’s not always adequate to talk only within your department or branch; sometimes it’s good to look at other centres and other businesses to see whether it is possible to use what they already have, or to piggy-back on some of their ideas.

Is someone there doing something similar and could you collaborate, or build on their efforts?

Have a central data bank

I’m no IT specialist, but it occurs to me that having a central resource “bank” where material, procedures, documents, forms, ideas, or whatever is germane to your particular work, is vital. That way, it becomes the first port-of-call when you are asked to put something together. I know of some companies that even keep their roll-out procedures in their resource bank, so that with minor tweaks, they already have a guide to refer to for the next project roll-out. It’s smart and certainly saves a lot of time, not to mention making much better use of your time.

Think innovation

If we are to be productive, then we need to be innovative. As Gary Hamel points out:

It's the only insurance against irrelevance. It's the only guarantee of long-term customer loyalty. It's the only strategy for out-performing a dismal economy.

It’s about staying one step ahead of the competition and using your time to think creatively, rather than reproducing that which already exists. Innovation is not always about a brand spanking never-thought-of-before idea. I love the example of the yoghurt and cereal combo tubs. Cereal in small quantities wasn't a new idea; yoghurt in single portions wasn't a new idea; but putting them together was innovative.

This is exactly what Tom Freston means when he says that:

Innovation is taking two things that already exist and putting them together in a new way.
I suppose that you could say that reinventing the wheel is the exact opposite of innovation, productivity and competitive edge.

I’d like to suggest that before you enthusiastically tackle your next project, that you consider what resources might exist, consider establishing a central point for “storing” this resource capital so that you can get mileage out of what already exists, and rather spend your time on innovative, creative and challenging efforts.

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About the Author:

Fee Hosking  

With over 24 years experience as a trainer, Fee is one of our most senior Professional Development trainers at New Horizons Sydney. With a professional background as a management consultant in the South African manufacturing industry, Fee brings credibility, experience and authenticity to all of the subjects that she trains. She has the ability to engage professionals from the junior to the senior level. Bringing great energy to the classroom, Fee ensures that the learning experience for all who attend is an enjoyable one, which in turn makes it a truly impactful one.

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