Friday 19 September 2014

Does saving old work files lead to opportunity or threat?

Last week, I was in a meeting when someone said, "I have something I did in the past that will be perfect here." It didn’t sound right although I have had similar thoughts. 

I am an archivist by nature and have always backed up all of my files on discs, and more recently, external hard drives. You never know when it will come in handy, has been my motto.

Although I have amassed a large collection of files, I have opened only a few of them since they were saved. Why not more often, I thought? After all, doing so has benefits:
  • Provides a draft plan
  • Saves time
  • Leverages good practice
On the other hand, there are drawbacks:
  • Created with dated thinking 
  • Not aligned with current circumstances
  • Skipped thinking process 
For me, the drawbacks far outweigh the benefits. Other than using tested processes and lessons learned, using old material produces inferior results. 

When I did review old files there was nothing I could use. I went through the Powerpoint presentations and found a few things of interest but not of use. I felt like I was looking through a photo album: revisiting memories, but not reliving them.

This week, I reviewed my archive and found files from the early 2000's. Why was I keeping them when they weren't being used? Perhaps there is a sense of security from having access to past work. The experiences are less likely to be forgotten by keeping proof that they existed. Also, they may inspire confidence to tackle new challenges; we have succeeded before and therefore we can succeed again.

I am adopting a new approach to archiving. After each project, I will focus on capturing new approaches and lessons learned. They lead to opportunities; the other stuff leads to a threat of not being your best.


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