Why do we stick with systems that are inefficient?

Lisa CulhaneBlog


When a large group of diverse business owners was asked the question, “Is every system you use at work optimized for efficiency – and if not, why do you stick with the ones you have?” the answers coalesced around three main points:

1. It takes time and effort to make a change. 

2. There is a marked financial and emotional investment in the sunk cost.

3. Better the devil you know.

How we work is increasingly being shaped by technology and tools to increase productivity, yet we consistently resist the change even though, according to research firm IDC, companies lose 20 to 30 percent in revenue every year due to inefficiencies.

  • One owner talked about being burned by excitement followed closely by frustration.
  • One told the story of multiple, unused solutions that proved too complicated for her firm.
  • One talked about the overwhelm that accompanied looking into new options and another talked about the comfort zone of using a system they understood, even though it was tedious and frustrating.

They had all tried. And they had all been burned.

It’s pretty discouraging.

It makes you wonder if you should keep trying. Will pursuing another system really make a difference?

I get it. As a solo practitioner I was discouraged and stuck using an inefficient system to produce my discovery. I knew I needed a better solution. But I couldn’t find one that worked for me. Eventually the inefficiency became so great that I decided I had no choice but to pursue something new. So I started talking about creating a discovery solution that would work for small firm and small cases. I talked about it with other lawyers. I talked about it with people who knew about programming. I even talked about it at cocktail parties.  

Eventually, a solution began to develop. The seed of an idea turned into a sprout of a system that first helped me and then grew into a solution that could help others.

It took 4 long years for that seed to grow. I almost gave up many times along the way. I’m so glad I convinced myself to keep innovating.  

Sometimes, it can feel like the right solution is incredibly far away.

But what if the right solution is just around the corner? What if you’re closer than you think? What if it’s new on the market you just don’t know about it yet? 

Imagine what might happen if you found something that actually worked. What if the right solution just recently hit the market? What if it could save you 20% to 30% (or more) in wasted expense every year from now on? 

Just a little more curiosity and persistence. Just one more try. You never know…

You might discover a new system that turns out to be the miracle you’ve been waiting for—or at least the long-awaited solution to an inefficiency you resigned yourself to just live with.