EOTB: Innovation is often killed by 'best practice'

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Denis Thibault

In my opinion 'Best Practice' kills innovation.

Were you hired to follow the crowd or does your corporation/board of directors pay you to think for yourself? Best Practices is defined as a set of guidelines or ideas that represent the most efficient or prudent course of action.

Best practices are often set forth by management, depending on the circumstances. While best practices generally dictate a recommended course of action, some situations require that you think for yourself.

For me the term ‘Best Practice’ strikes up a bunch of images of a whole group of people and organizations working hard to become uniform & mediocre, led by those who want you to follow the crowd.

Regardless of how similar any two organizations seem to be—even ones which on the surface appear identical—they will be anything but, so for me, the idea of bench-marking your organization against another, or worse, implementing a solution at your business or company simply because it worked at another, makes no sense.

If you choose not to think for yourself and look deeply at your own organization, it's reality and its make-up to drive innovation, and instead copy what another organization, which has different staff, structure, clients, partners, and culture to name but a few of the many factors which make similar organizations very different. Then you are choosing to create an organization where people will stop thinking, lose their motivation and become unproductive.

I read an interesting article this week by Sahar Hashemi titled ‘Act like a "Big Kid": The Importance of Being Clueless’, which was a reflective story on the start-up of Coffee Republic in the UK. If interested, you will find it on Facebook. It dawned on me after reading it, that had Sahar and her brother simply aimed for ‘Best Practice’ they would likely have failed to reach their potential and would have started another mediocre coffee business, instead their inexperience and lack of preconceptions became their strength. Tim Horton’s is another good example where they did not do best practices but invented their own. Are they successful?

CAOs of awesome companies will tell you that they built-up their business and understood that preconceptions are the enemy of experimentation and new ideas. They often come disguised in all too familiar phrases like: This is how we do things and its industry practice, ‘best practices’.

Many of us no longer use or accept the phrase 'Best Practice' as I don't think it serves creativity, productivity, or innovation. We gave up on best practices ten plus years ago and decided to do what we thought was right and kept our reason for being as our touch stone with the goals of the Corporation. It works for us! Am I wrong to think this way? Maybe or maybe not, but I'd love to hear your opinion.

Geographic location: Coffee Republic, UK

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