Why a Boilerplate Is an Absolutely Obscene Thing

How many people go to Google to find a template to follow for something? It could be for a résumé, a business plan, a job application or a flowchart for anything. Any common requirement that can be programmed and replicated ends up in some sort of template format and made available for everyone to use. Boilerplates make it easy for the person using it (follow the format; don’t think; stay within the lines) and for the person receiving it (content is presented in one way; common elements are covered). Boilerplates have a dark side; they are obscene when you consider 5 serious problems they cause.

They rob creativity

Boilerplates rob the creativity in people — no creativity is needed to complete a template on any topic (other than selecting the template appropriate to the application you have in mind). You don’t have to think through your own approach to any challenge you are facing, in fact most people choose the the template that is easiest to complete. Want to create a résumé? Download one of the many templates from the internet and have a go; it’s that easy. The problem is that for the sake of easiness, you sacrifice the opportunity to express your individuality; to do something that is uniquely you. Successful people are remarkable because they create their own personal art, something that is special to them and that conveys their uniqueness. Template thinking is clearly counter to that and in fact represents a force that stultifies personal art forms.

They force compliance

Boilerplates encourage a “fill in the blanks” mentality — rather than considering why the blanks are there and filling them in with a plan or strategy in mind, you just mindlessly fill them in. You are willing to accept an approach that someone else has conceived and trust that it will work for you. This unfortunately leads to just doing what your told without thinking for yourself; complying with the rules set by others rather than questioning what you’re being asked to do and doing it your own way. The ultimate consequence of this behaviour is a population that simply follows the intellectual perspective of other pundits or “experts” and is therefore unable to adapt to changes required to survive and thrive in a changing world.

They spawn copycats

Boilerplates reinforce and perpetuate the copying phenomenon — if one thousand people use the same résumé template, for example, a crowd of 1000 look-alike candidates for any job opportunity is created. I’ve sat across the table interviewing candidates for a VP Marketing leadership position and have almost been “put to sleep” because the value propositions offered by virtually everyone of them were the same and were the product of a template they all used. Originality was missing in action; individuality was masked by crowd mentality. As a writer and practitioner of being different, I find the best practices and benchmarking completely of touch with what it takes to achieve personal and organizational growth and success. Copying anything simply increases the common herd by one; no additional value is created; no actual progress is achieved.

They cause laziness

Boilerplates make people lazy — it takes zero energy (other than finding a template you need) to exist in the world of boilerplates. The process of completing a template is well defined and predictable, so with a minimum amount of effort you can produce the expected result. Many would argue that this is a good thing, that achieving something with minimal effort is a sign of being highly productive. And, in certain instances, I would agree. But in this case the zero effort experience raises the expectations that all challenges will be successfully met with little effort — I call it the boilerplate syndrome. What ever happened to the premise that anything worth doing is worth working hard for? My grandkids’ schooling makes extensive use of templates and they actually think they will achieve greatness by using them. Nope. The boilerplate syndrome enables the inertia of taking what is perceived as the easy way. Boilerplates are boring — they all produce the same information in the same form; they are totally predictable. Any time a predictable result is consistently produced by anything, it’s boring. They say variety is the spice of life, and it’s particularly true when it comes to the applications of templates. Where are the spicy résumés, the spicy marketing plans and the spicy flowcharts? It’s time to mix things up if you want to get noticed. Sure, use a résumé boilerplate as a guide, but apply your own personal twist to introduce variety and attract the attention of your intended audience. The suppliers of boilerplates market their similar solutions to people who aren’t creative, who love to comply with the views of others, who are comfortable with being a copycat, and who are ok with producing something that is boring. And unfortunately there are too many people out there to buy what they offer. Let’s change that. Related: How to Really Tell If Your Client Service Is Toxic