I would like to share with you the following story, though I am unable to recollect the reference from which I had taken it from:
There were once these kids that would topple the rubbish cans along the street, causing the rubbish to spew out. This had gone on everyday for a long time. One day, an old man came out, and offered the kids this proposition: He would pay them $2 to continue knocking all the cans down, everyday.
These kids couldn’t believe their luck, and for the next week, he paid them the $2 everyday for knocking down the rubbish cans. Then he told them that he would have to reduce it to $1. They were not very happy, but continued to do so anyway. For another week it went on.
On the third week, the old man told them that he could only afford to give them 50¢. They exclaimed, “What?! 50¢? You must be joking!”
The old man refused to budge from that offer, and they went away, and never knocked down another can again.
Analysis of the story
Imagine a square table, with four legs. The tabletop is an action, while the legs are the reasons the action is being done. In the story above, the action is that of kicking the cans down. The reasons the “kids” kicked down the cans was originally not that of money, but of perhaps a need for attention, or out of simple mischief.
When money was introduced, it was like adding an additional fourth leg under the table. This extra leg far out-weighed the other legs. So now imagine a huge table leg under the centre of the tabletop. Soon, due to a lack of a need of the other legs, the kids started taking them off.
When the other legs were taken off (when money was the only factor playing on the kids’ minds), the old slowly replaced the huge table leg with a smaller one (smaller amount of money). Soon, when the money became too small to support the tabletop, it collapsed (and the kids stopped their action of kicking bins down).
All actions have reasons behind them. Over time, these reasons evolve, while we may not even be aware of their evolution. Soon, we’re stuck with out-moded systems, systems that continue to exists because “that’s how it has always been done”.
Sometimes the only table leg left, is the one that says: “because that’s how it has always been done”.