Recycling vs. Reinventing the Wheel

Recycling is an important part of corporate responsibility. Recycle paper. Recycle soda cans. What about recycling ideas?

I am sure you’ve heard such phrases in your organization. Perhaps you are fond of saying such words yourself.

Don’t reinvent the wheel.”

“How did we do it last year?”

“Can you create a template for us all to use?”

“How are they doing it in New York?”

“Let’s pull out last month’s agenda as a starting point”

“She did such a great job a last years event, do you think she would be willing to speak again?”

“How did we structure the contract last time?


Benefits of Recycling

Recycling ideas and processes…

  • Saves time
  • Is easy
  • Creates consistency
  • Provides structure
  • Leverages best practices
  • Prevents exceptions
  • ?

Downsides of Recycling

Recycling also…

  • Squashes creativity
  • Drives conformity
  • Assumes one size fits all
  • Is boring
  • Reduces the need to ask questions
  • May not be enough
  • Prevents exceptions
  • ?

4 Questions To Help You Decide When to Recycle vs. Reinvent

Consider what is needed most now (stability, continuity, efficiency or creativity, breakthrough thinking, empowerment)?

  1. What are the benefits/drawbacks of the current approach?
  2. Are there certain rules that must be followed (compliance, legal) ( a template may hit the spot)
  3. How important is the buy-in from the team (involving them in the reinvention may help)
  4. Is someone already doing this really well (may be time to adopt a best practice)?
Posted in Communication and tagged , , , , .

Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt, Founder of Let’s Grow Leaders, helps leaders around the world achieve breakthrough results, without losing their soul. A former Verizon Wireless executive, she has over two decades of experience in sales, customer service, and HR. She was named on Inc's list of 100 Great Leadership Speakers and American Management Association's 50 Leaders to Watch. She’s the author of several books: Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates (Harper Collins Summer 2020), Winning Well: A Manager's Guide to Getting Results-Without Losing Your Soul, Overcoming an Imperfect Boss, and Glowstone Peak.


  1. I serve on a chamber of commerce board and I’ve been suggesting, for almost nine months, to adopt best practices.

    Every organization needs a solid foundation from which to create something special.

  2. I try to take my cues from the situation and folks with whom I am working. If we are trying to accomplish a goal or complete a task and my inquires about possible solutions/actions bring a response like “we have always done it that way” then I feel like it is time to get some new creative juices flowing. The “old way” isn’t necessarily bad or wrong, but I want to ensure that we are constantly examining our actions to ensure that a “new way” hasn’t come along that is better.

    • Ron, Thanks so much. Absolutely, sometimes the “old way” is just right…I like your thoughts of checking to ensure you are not on auto pilot. Great perspective.

  3. Great post. We struggle with this all of the time. We tend to use the same old same old when it comes to systems. A quick, what worked and what didn’t Q&A brings to light anything that might need adapted. However, we almost always change up delivery and experience to the end user. We are a summer camp, and our returning campers want to have the “same feelings” they had last year, but new experiences to achieve these feelings. We also ask when deciding to recycle, “When’s the last time we used this?” Our campers rotate up age groups every two to three years, so it’s often safe to recycle every three years. For example, we only have the bubble gum tree (a magical tree that grows bubble gum on the other side of s’more cove) every three years.

    • Eric,
      I really think you’ve brought up something interesting here. In so many circumstances we want to have the “same feelings,” that we had….that is also a benefits of so many rituals. Sometimes that’s just what’s needed… ritual and tradition. The rotation is a nice option which I have seen used quite well. I like the idea of starting with the feeling (or the result) and saying “how can we mix this up” to achieve a similar outcome. Thanks, as always for your great insights and contributions.

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