Ted Kennedy said that about his brother, Robert.
He was right in praising this quality.
It's ALWAYS possible to say "No. I refuse to do this the same way that everyone does it, and the same way that I've ALWAYS done it."
Always possible, and often easy.
There are two challenges to overcome:
1) Ourselves. It's downright hard to constantly be vigilant of the status quo, to be aware that what we've always done is PROBABLY not the best way, to constantly stretch the mental muscle that wants to just lie down on the couch and let things happen the way they always do. What's nice is that the moment we wake up and realize that the couch ISN'T where we want to be - well then it becomes very hard to STAY there.
2) EVERYONE ELSE. Once we've overcome our own inertia, we're startled to realize that everyone else is not only stuck on the same couch we were on, but FIGHTING to stay there. They don't WANT us to change things, even if it might be for the better, for the same reasons WE didn't want to.
I'm going to give a simple, yet painfully self-promoting example - feel free to quit reading here (sorry?).
At my company a year ago, I was asked to help out with recruiting.
I attending the meeting in which they were planning the 'corporate event'.
The plan was...to do a Q&A panel. To put a few of us in front of bunch of students, and then just have people talk about their experience and answer questions.
Can you imagine anything more boring or cookie-cutter?
So that's what I said - why are we doing the same thing that everyone ELSE is doing?
Immediately, I was met with a wave of sarcasm and negativity.
In many ways, I can understand this - I was challenging the work of other people without offering my own solutions.
So (inevitably), the challenge came - "Well why don't you come up with something better?!"
So I said, give me a day, and I will.
I didn't spend much time. How to get people out of their seats? How to teach them about the company and get them enthusiastic? How to judge who really understood what we were all about? How to be different?
I created a REALLY simple event called CapJeopardy (my company is Capgemini). It's exactly what you think it is. Just a large brown paper with a grid of taped up printer papers with questions typed on them and answers underneath (also employing some classic consulting tools). We ask a question - you call out the answer and get a prize. The event was such a success that CapJeopardy has rolled out nationally as a staple of our recruiting strategy.
Forgive me for tooting my own horn on this one, but as simple as the solution in this case was, it's just ONE example of the infinite ways in which we can question whether the 'standard' is really worth upholding.