With two sentences, the magazine Fast Company may have destroyed everything you’ve ever thought about so-called “best practices.” In a recent article they wrote:
“Best practices don’t make you the best. They make you the average of everyone else who follows them.”
Whoa. Mind blown!
There’s an entire industry of analysts who identify and report on best practices and thousands of subscribing companies and professionals who get those findings and attempt to imitate the recommendations.
Admittedly, there’s a deep-seated human instinct to play it safe and follow, rather than to be audacious and lead, at work here. Otherwise, people wouldn’t be paying tens of thousands of dollars to get the annual best practices reports. And, then paying even more to have those analysts come to your company and provide color commentary on their observations of other people’s work.
But, why is the reliance on best practices so pervasive? After all, those who adhere to best practices surely understand the importance of competitive differentiation. And certainly no one wants to look or sound or feel like carbon copies of their competition. So why are so many companies doing something that keeps them in lockstep with everyone else, potentially at the cost of one of the most important business goals—differentiation?
One of the strongest points in the article is that the term “best practices” is itself a misnomer, based on the creaky logic that what is “good” or “smart” now will remain so indefinitely. As the author notes, seldom are people willing to do the work to find out how long a practice actually stays the ‘best,’ or whether it’s applicable across various situations and contexts.
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