A young girl was watching her mother bake a ham for a family gathering and noticed her mom cutting off the ends before placing it in the oven.
“Mom, why do you cut the ends off before baking the ham?” she asked.
“Hmmm… I think it helps soak up the juices while it’s baking. I’m not sure, though. That’s just the way your grandma always did it, so I’ve just always cut them off. Why don’t you call grandma and ask her?”
So, the little girl phoned her grandma and asked “Grandma, mom is making a ham and cut off the ends before placing it in the oven. She said that it’s probably to help soak up the juices but wasn’t sure. She said you’d know because she learned how to cook from you.”
“That’s true. I do cut off the ends of the ham before baking. But I’m not sure why either. I learned how to cook from my mom. You should ask her.”
So, the inquisitive little girl called her great grandmother and asked “Great grandma, mom and grandma said they learned how to cook a ham from watching you. Do you cut off the ends of the ham to help it soak up the juices?”
The great grandmother chuckled. “Oh, no sweetie. I just never had a pan big enough to hold a whole ham, so I always had to cut off the ends to make it fit.”
The allegory of the ham is not new, and has been told numerous different ways, but it is a great example of the critical thinking errors we make every day.
We do things because that’s the way we were taught, but never ask the most simple question—why?
When a new leader joins an organization, they ask hundreds of questions as they seek to understand everything from the commercialization plan and value proposition to the organizational structure. There’s always a fear when new leaders join an organization that they plan to implement change. No one likes change. And whether it is intentional or not, we often get feel protective of the way we do things and the decisions we’ve made.
We defend cutting off the ends of the ham.
It takes mental maturity, open-mindedness, and humility to honestly analyze whether the decisions we’ve made in the past were correct then and whether they still make sense now.
When we do things “because that’s what we’ve always done” we fail to seek opportunities for improvement. We fail to see the assumptions we make every day out of habit and routine. When we just keep cutting off the ends of the ham, we fail to innovate.
“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” – Albert Einstein
Stop cutting off the ends of the ham today. Ask why.