Cutting off the end of the ham

Reading about the feud (described in this opinion piece by a former GM exec) between Elon Musk of Tesla Motors and traditional car dealers reminds me of the old story about cooking a ham.

As three generations of women gathered in the kitchen to make the holiday ham and other traditional favorites, the mother told her teenaged daughter to make sure she cut the end off the ham before putting it in the roasting pan. cartoon picture of ham

“Why do I need to do that?” asked the daughter.

“I don’t know.  That’s how I was taught.”  replied the mom.

“But why?” insisted the daughter.

“Ask your grandmother.  She’s the one who taught me.”

“Grandma, why do I need to cut the end off the ham?”

“Well,” explained the matriarch, “when I was first married, our roasting pan was too small to hold a full-sized ham, so I had to cut the end off to make it fit.  It never occurred to me to ask your mother why she still does it.”

Just because it has always been done a certain way doesn’t mean you shouldn’t examine the reasons for it now and then.  Some of our most successful innovations are based on questioning assumptions.