3 Signs Your Business Is Stuck in the Past

From time to time, WorkIntelligent.ly features articles from thought leaders and innovators who are impacting today’s business world. Today’s article comes to us from Greg Walters, President of Walters & Shutwell, Inc.

People enjoy reminiscing about the good ol’ days – a simpler, yet still innovative time. Whether it was work or play, people learned new ways to improve the task at hand. But we didn’t stop there. We kept moving forward into the new world of work – well, many of us have, at least.

Take the 1950’s for example. In business, moving information from one side of a country to the other could take weeks. Compiling and creating financial statements and sales forecasts required weeks of preparation from the entire team. And even the shortest business meetings necessitated reams of paper to present simple concepts.

Fast forward 60 years. Today, we take for granted the ability to move information at the speed of thought, or being able to pull together a 200-slide presentation that can appear on numerous screens across the world at the same time.

Still, for many businesses, it can be hard to let go of the old ways. What was familiar and comfortable to our predecessors may seem nostalgic, almost romantic today. But, as discussed many times here on WorkIntelligent.ly, the workplace is transforming, and to maintain a competitive edge, businesses need to adapt the way that they manage information, communicate with people and best use technology. What worked yesterday is likely restricting your ability to move forward today.

Consider these common practices as your company looks to identify how it can adapt to the demands of the new world of work. You might just be surprised to find what’s giving your employees, partners and other stakeholders the perspective that your business is stuck in decades’ past.


This seems a bit counter-intuitive, but if you’re printing out slides as presentation tools, you’re stunting your creativity.

In the beginning, business presentations were “productions” with real people creating photographic slides and hand drawn artwork – all built on top of a polished oral presentation. And back then, professionals didn’t dole out the script. Take a lesson from them and think long and hard before you start handing out physical materials like candy.

Backup materials like engineering or financial reports were and are acceptable – but a hardcopy of the company logo is plain silly. And including a printed version of your presentation is often overkill. It’s a throwback to an older era of business and communication that can be effective – but is often more akin to a movie stub. Once the show’s over, nobody’s looking at the stub again.


Why are we still photocopying receipts, jamming spreadsheets and writing elaborate fiction while applying for expense reimbursements? In some companies, the workflow involved with this monthly ritual would keep a Six Sigma engineer busy for months.

Not every company handles expense reports the same way, and some have even abandoned the practice completely. Still, most businesses recognize the need to cover food, travel, and at times, entertainment. That typically means lost receipts and using time you don’t have for long, wearying discussions with your finance team or following up with your hotel or restaurant to get a copy of your bill. And do I need to mention the tedious process of affixing each scrap to an 8.5×11 sheet of paper?

It is unfathomable why we still stuff our pockets full of slips of paper when there are a variety of receipt digitization options out there – many available right from your smartphone.


Businesses have long retired the days of typing pools and carbon paper. In its place, the humble copy machine – a quick, consistent and revolutionary means to disseminate thousands of documents each day. But today, a copy machine that’s just used for making copies is almost as archaic as the carbon copy process. Today, documents are often digested and disposed of in less than a day, making poor document processes an inefficient, wasteful activity.

Businesses who understand the new world of work know that the ability to automatically sort, search and compile information digitally has become a skill worth investing time into developing. Finding the right hardware and processes to make information available to your workers when and where it’s needed is today as essential as the work itself.


The way we operate into today’s new world of work has changed. We want information immediately, and we need to share it with people all over the world even faster as the digital age continues to revolutionize both our personal and professional lives. That’s not a world in which the workstyles of the past will equate to business success. So take a good look at the way you do business. Your workflow processes and the ways you conduct business should be as far away from the 50’s as Virgin Galactic is from Pan Am. If they’re not, it might be time to make a change.

Need help moving your business out of the past and into the new world of work? WorkIntelligent.ly has you covered:

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