Why Best Practices are (not Always) Stupid

January 7, 2010  

A couple of days ago I wrote an article entitled – “Why Best Practices Are Stupid.”  You can read my rationale there; I won’t bother reiterating it here.  Besides, there is a video in that post.

But there are situations when best practices are NOT stupid.

Core & Support Capabilities
In an even earlier article I talk about innovation targeting.  Again, I won’t repeat what was said there.  But in summary, best practices are not a good idea for your “differentiating” capabilities.  But they can be quite useful for optimizing your “core” and “support” capabilities.  Read the article to learn more.

Cross-Industry Best Practices
Don’t get too excited about best practices that are from within your industry.  But certainly “steal with pride” from other industries.  You can get some incredible innovations from companies who are not your competition and are from an entirely different industry.  Watch my TEDx NASA video (only 6 minutes long) or read the speech transcript for some examples.

The Innovation Process
Here’s a question for you: Should you innovate  the innovation process?  Here’s my two cents.  Although innovation is used primarily for your differentiating capabilities, the innovation process itself is, for most companies, only a core capability.  Therefore the answer is “no, you should not innovate the innovation process.”  Or in other words, innovation best practices are extremely useful (and not stupid).

For example, if you are an insurance company, you might want to apply innovation to your claims processing.  Claims processing might be a differentiator.  But innovation is a core capability.  Therefore you want to use innovation best practices rather than inventing new approaches for innovating.

The one exception to the rule however, is if you are indeed an innovation company.  For example, for companies like InnoCentive, innovation is their differentiator.  Using innovation best practices would not be enough.  They differentiate themselves in the marketplace via the thought leadership on the innovation topic.

As you can see, although it is fun to say that best practices are stupid, they do in fact serve a useful purpose if used in the right way.

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3 Responses to “Why Best Practices are (not Always) Stupid”

  1. uberVU - social comments on January 7th, 2010 5:39 pm

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by stephenshapiro: Although best practices are USUALLY stupid, sometimes they are useful…like in #innovation – http://bit.ly/7hNY8j

  2. Rotkapchen on January 14th, 2010 12:37 am

    Funny. And listening to your TEDxNASA piece I was inspired to do away with Best Practices : ) http://twitter.com/rotkapchen/status/7735199424

  3. Ken Gillgren on January 14th, 2010 1:34 pm

    OK, I’m still relatively new to this, but I’ve been finding the Cynefin framework (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cynefin) to be useful for determining when to expect the appropriateness or applicability of best practices, good practices, emerging practices and/or novel practices — in light of the relative stability or complexity of the situation.
    And I’m intrigued by innovation in extreme situations. There are no doubt “best practices” for emergency situations like Haiti right now, but I suspect there will be innovative responses at several levels–and we may never see them broadly reported, and they will have to do with unexpectedly useful connections beyond specific areas of expertise that are not “rocket science” (couldn’t help myself–your TEDxNASA talk is terrific!).