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Definition of insanity # 2

James Evelegh takes the famous definition of insanity and adds a workflows-related twist.

By James Evelegh

Definition of insanity # 2
Photograph: Elisa Ventur on Unsplash.

We all know the famous definition, often, though apparently incorrectly, attributed to Albert Einstein: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Well, I’ve got a second definition: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, when what you’re doing is COMPLETELY AND UTTERLY UNNECESSARY.”

Not quite so pithy, but perhaps more relevant in the context of publishing workflows.

Here’s an example.

At InPublishing, when we set up a new editorial contributor, we create two pictures of them on our system. One ‘large’ (100 x 100px) and one ‘small’ (75 x 60px).

So far, so sane.

But the thing is, since a website redesign over three years ago, we stopped showing the ‘small’ version anywhere on the site. It was, err… no longer needed.

As I type this, the magnitude of the insanity I’m about to share with you is starting to dawn on me.

Over the last three years… we have continued creating both versions.

Aaaaaaaaaaagh!!!!

Complete and utter madness. What could possibly be the justification?

The thing about such workplace insanity is that it’s hard to explain. Thinking about it, which is painful in itself, it probably comes down to a combination of factors: perhaps some initial uncertainty as to which version we’d stopped using so best keep on doing both, habit, routine, confusion, thinking we might one day need the small version again so best to keep creating it, ill thought through suspicion that the whole CMS might crash if a picture it expected to be there wasn’t. In short, muddled thinking.

Apart from giving me the opportunity to unburden myself, there’s a wider point to make here.

In our special feature on content creation, a number of contributors make the point that most workflows, unless they’re regularly reviewed, start to accumulate inefficiencies – ways of doing things that take up more time than is necessary, are prone to error because they have not been properly thought through, or like my embarrassing example above, are simply not necessary anymore.

We continue doing things a particular way because that’s how we’ve always done them. In the moment, it sometimes feels easier to simply continue in the way it’s always been done, rather than take the few extra minutes necessary to address the underlying issue, even if doing so will free up time in the long run.

The end result is that we are a lot less productive than we could be; work takes longer to get done than it should, meaning we have less time available to create the quality content that our businesses rely on.

Unnecessary work is also not good for the soul, and any publisher looking to build a contented workforce should work to remove any such pain points from the working day.

Periodic and thorough reviews of workflows are absolutely essential. The special feature contains a lot of essential advice covering this and many other areas of content creation. I recommend you read it; some of the stuff you might know, some you might not and the takeaways will help you up your game; that is unless you’re already doing everything perfectly. As you can see, we’re not…


This article was first published in InPublishing magazine. If you would like to be added to the free mailing list, please register here.