Saturday, June 4, 2011

Best Practices Vs. Next Practices: Are You Looking Forward or Backward?

Over my career, I have been coached by bosses, mentors, and colleagues that successful businesses build their business strategies upon best practices.

Business people have often considered introduction of a new best practice as thought leadership. My question is should business leaders focus on developing best practices, which are based upon the past, or should they be thinking ahead?

Looking Forward or Backward?

I’m not so sure that touting best practices equates to thought leadership.  It certainly is not innovation.  About three months ago I came across an article written by an Eventprofs colleague, Adrian Segar, that really resonated with me.  Entitled “Next Practices, Not Best Practices” his blog article very appropriately points out that Best Practices:

  1. Are founded upon what has worked most successfully in the past.
  2. Distract us from thinking about “Next Practices” or new ways of doing things for the future.

I think Adrian hit the nail on the head with those comments.  Make no mistake, I do believe there is a place in business for both.  I just believe the pace of business and the reality of rapid change are forcing businesses to continuously innovate.  To not do so is corporate suicide, as society has become too competitive to allow folks to rest on their business laurels for too long.

Next Practices Are All About Innovation

Interestingly, the concept of “Next Practices” is not a new one.  For fun I googled the term and immediately found pages upon pages of articles, going back several years, addressing this topic.  Here are some interesting nuggets from my research:

Dr. John Sullivan (HR Thought Leader), June 2006 — “Best practices only allow you to do what you are currently doing a little better, while next practices increase your organization’s capability to do things that it could never have done before. By jumping a level up to next practices, you’re taking a giant step in that you are actually creating your future recruiting capabilities, rather than relying on the innovation of others.”

Saul Kaplan (Founder, Business Innovation Factory), May 2009“It is not best practices, but next practices that will sustain your organization on a strong growth trajectory. While you continue to pedal the bicycle of today’s business model make sure that no less than 10% of your time and resources is dedicated to exploring new business models and developing next practices.”

C.K. Prahalad ( Harvard Bua. Review) April 2010 “Organizations become winners by spotting big opportunities and inventing next practices … Next practices are all about innovation: imagining what the future will look like; identifying the mega-opportunities that will arise; and building capabilities to capitalize on them.”

Clearly, we are all doing business differently than we did a few years ago.  The economic climate, combined with continuously developing technology, and the impact of social media have opened the floodgates of innovation.  Businesses mostly have less dollars to spend, and have become more prudent in their choice of vendor partners.

One sure way to draw attention to your business is to find new and game-changing ways of delivering business value to your customers and prospects.  There is risk associated with trying new things, but the ultimate payoff could be huge.

Question:  Are you and your organization finding ways to build for the future that will resonate with customers?  Are you stuck in the benchmarking world, or are you stepping outside of the box and finding a new way to deliver value to your customers?  Tell us about it please!

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