If It Ain’t Broke Don’t Fix It – Meaning, Origin and Usage

Are you looking for a way to tell a person to stop interfering with a process providing the results you want? If so, you could tell them, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, to ask them to leave it alone. This post unpacks the meaning and origin of this expression.

Meaning

The expression “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” means that if something is working and producing the required results, don’t tinker with it. Adjusting things when they’re working well can spell disaster by changing the process.

The phrase means that there is no need to constantly look for improvement when you are doing well. Instead, you should focus on what’s working well and ride the momentum to the upside. When you use “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” you’re telling someone not to change their strategy or risk derailing their efforts thus far. Why ruin a good thing?

Example Usage

“We have a good thing going here, guys. Let’s not reinvent the wheel. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and we need to keep things as they are.”

“You know what they say, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, leave that thing alone there, sonny, before you ruin everything for everyone.”

“Didn’t anyone ever tell you if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?” What do you think will happen if you keep playing around with this. If you start changing the experience, everyone will get mad.”

“Why should we change the formulation of a medication that’s been working for the last four decades? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, that’s what I have to say about it.”

“We have no idea what will happen if we make those changes. It could dump the whole business out of this amazing bull run and ruin our progress. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Origin

The expression “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” originates from the writings of Thomas Bertram Lance. Lance was the Director of the Office of Management and Budget in the Jimmy Carter administration in 1977. The newsletter of the US Chamber of Commerce, Nation’s Business, quoted Lance as saying the following in May 1977.

Bert Lance believes he can save Uncle Sam billions if he can get the government to adopt a simple motto: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

However, while Lance gets the credit for popularizing the expression, its origin goes back to a colloquial saying from the southern states. The Texas newspaper, “The Big Spring Herald,” published the following in an article in December 1976.

“We would agree with the old Georgia farmer who said his basic principle was ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.'”

Phrases Similar to If it ain’t broke don’t Fix It

  • Let sleeping dogs lie.
  • Don’t tempt the tiger.

Phrases Opposite to If it ain’t broke don’t Fix It

  • We need an intervention.
  • Preventative maintenance.

What is the Correct Saying?

  • If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

Ways People May Say If it ain’t broke don’t Fix It Incorrectly

The saying has nothing to do with fixing things. It’s a way of telling someone that they need to leave things alone and let them work themselves out. Using the phrase to describe the need to fix something is incorrect.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase If it ain’t broke don’t Fix It

You can use the phrase, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” when you’re trying to tell someone to leave things alone. When things are going well, you don’t want them tinkering with the process bringing you success. The phrase suits use in social and professional settings.

At work, you can use it to tell a friend to stop tweaking the sales funnel in the CRM because it might decrease your conversion rate. At home, you could use it to tell your partner not to change a recipe because it will alter the flavor.

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