Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is a form of insanity.

Trying differently can be more difficult than it seems at first. Trying differently requires learning new skills, new methods, pushing boundaries, perhaps even advancing into the unknown.

It is so easy to fall into the “what we really need here is a bigger hammer” syndrome. Events can gather momentum and we can become extremely vested in our solutions. And group think can begin to fester. To back up and try a whole other solution can seem suspiciously like giving up—in effect, admitting that our past efforts were a mistake or at least not the smartest, best choice.

This is why a new leader, less invested in past decisions, often finds it easier to abandon the well-trod paths and strike out on different routes, even if still heading toward the original mountain top, the original goal.

There is a lot to be said for trying harder. I am a big proponent of persistence and resilience. It is frequently the best first option, the easiest thing to try.

That said, at some point trying harder does not work. One must realize that a new solution is in order. That it is time to step back, crank up our creative energies, assess, re-evaluate, consult, brain storm and try smarter, try differently.

This is a classic from the NSC Blog archive, originally posted September 25, 2008.