That's the way we've always done it, or how shit sticks for ages

That's the way we've always done it, or how shit sticks for ages
Photo by Clarisse Meyer / Unsplash

In german there is a “nice” saying, a so called Totschlagargument, often translated to knockout argument. It is very commonly used by the traditional political parties like CSU & CDU or in general conservative people to kill a conversation about actual change. Unfortunately, it also found its way into the enterprise and software world.

Why is that bad?

The phrase is reflecting basically that something is good just because it might have worked in the past, or at least it is anticipated that it did. It is a bit of a way to stay in the past while denying any change. As we live in a time of constant change, this can provide a bit of false comfort.

Dismissal of Complexity

Knockout arguments tend to reduce multifaceted issues into black-and-white. Whether it's a political topic or a software decision, the reality is rarely a no-brainer. Ignoring the complexity inherent in most issues can lead to shortsighted decisions and missed opportunities for innovation and progress.

One More Accidental Complexity. Writing a simple template.yaml file for… |  by The Starware | Medium

Instead, we should embrace the complexity of the real world, willing to take risks. Overall, it should be a process of constant adoption instead of sticking to the same decision that was made ages ago. Just because it worked until now does not mean it was the best.

Stifling Dialogue

Presenting an argument as a knockout blow, proponents are shut down from meaningful discussion and debate. This creates an environment where dissenting voices are marginalized, hindering the exploration of diverse viewpoints and the potential for collaborative problem-solving.

Unfortunately, that is something that i quite frequently experience and get told about, especially in german culture. I hate this, especially in software development, when new ideas are shutdown simply because a specific management level feels attacked in the decisions they made a while ago.

False Sense of Certainty

They often rely on sweeping generalizations or cherry-picked evidence to support their claims. This can create a false sense of certainty, obscuring the uncertainties and trade-offs inherent in decision-making processes. In both politics and software development, acknowledging and grappling with uncertainty is essential for making informed and responsible choices.

cherry picking : r/flatearth

It's typically difficult to argue with people that work like this because they pick forceful examples that show only the positive side. While keeping out all aspects that round up the decision and context for it.

Resistance to Change

Worst of all, these arguments can foster a culture of rigidity and resistance to change. When individuals or groups become entrenched in their positions, they are less willing to adapt to new information or reconsider their views. This can impede progress and innovation, both in the political arena and within software development communities.

But this does not stop in the business and tech world, but especially annoys me almost daily in the german political discussions and conservative parties.

What can I do?

It is obviously difficult to argue with such people. There is no patent recipe that works for everyone or even me. But a few things that I try and that work for most cases.

Find common ground

Find topics and areas where they agree also with the new solution. This allows you to get a foot in the door. It's never good to start straight up with a fight and the “you are just wrong” perspective.

Start weakening the foundation

Start by asking more open-ended questions about the current approach. Force the other to think about, especially, what happens when the current decision might come to its limit, where it falls short. This typically leads at least to a reflection in the mind. While most won't admit it they will start to think more about it.

Oh Yeah, It's All Coming Together | Know Your Meme

Once they start to actually think about the current state, instead of just defending it start by providing verifiable data and statistics to back your claims and reasons for the change.

Highlight consequences

When there is money involved or time spent, make sure to highlight this. Make sure the other party understands what is in for them. This is an excellent motivator, especially for more traditional folks.

Lead by example

Live the change you want to be. Sounds like one of the typical Instagram motivational quotes or something your mom would have in her motivational calendar.

Be the change you wish to see in the world Gandhi Zitat Poster,  Inspirierender Druck, Wisdom Zitat, Wohnung Deko College -

But it is true. Embrace the change, show others that it does not mean to live in constant fear, but feeling ready for change, always seeking for a better tomorrow.

This can be a very lonely journey, with a lot of disrespect and people not able to understand. After time, this gets less and people will start to join you. For some it takes weeks, other weeks, years, or even their entire life.

Where to go from here

Never stop. Never ever let it go down and give up. Embrace change, challenge the current state of things. Embrace change, allow yourself to fail and continuously improve. Be the change you want to be.