You can do a Google search on this quote, but the results on its origin are ambiguous. Most likely, it is a Native American tribal saying popularized by leadership gurus like Peter Drucker. The meaning, of course, is clear. When something no longer work, it is time to move on.
This is easier said than done. In business and industry, abandoning a project may mean the loss of jobs and capital investment. In education, old approaches must be unlearned and new ways learned. In the church, there may be some fear that we are giving up part of what makes us faithful when we end a program, ministry, worship service, or building. It is not only about change, but loss as well.
R. Buckminster Fuller said, “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” So what do you do when the existing model is already obsolete? You had better get to work on an alternative!
Of course, it is important for people to face reality first. The old no longer works. People need to honor the past but get ready to invest in the future. We can come up with a new way of doing things but we need to get to work now.
A sense of urgency is not a bad thing. Knowing that we only have a short time to come up with something new challenges our creativity and builds community. Of course, some will not be willing to do this hard work and probably will leave rather than deal with the tension. Honor their choice but don’t regret their leaving.
Finally, sometimes quick fixes are only temporary and are only the first step to a more sustainable existence. Hold the new approaches rather lightly. Experience and learning may well push to the next level of innovation.
Getting off the dead horse is good advice. Finding a new horse will take some work.
(This blog originally appeared here on March 27, 2017.)