Next Practices Trump Best Practices

Posted by: in Social Media Insights & Trends on July 8, 2010

Business buzzwords are often so overused, they start to lose their meaning.  I mean, if we could just actualize and find best of breed and backward compatible solutions that are bleeding edge, it would enable us to drill down, fast-track, ideate and create mindshare that would help us peel the onion, push the envelope and go beyond the tip of the iceberg.  Know what I mean? 

 I feel this way about “best practices”. 

 Best practices are really about “past practices”.  For some reason, we look at the past, examine it and then determine what may work for the future.  For those of us who have worked inside large companies, we hear “let’s benchmark best practices of our top competitors”.  The only problem is that we generally find practices that are fairly similar, which is why most best practice exercises lead to very little change. 

 Let’s admit it.  Best practices are yesterday’s buzzword and they are less helpful than first thought. 

 Next practices are what we want.  We want to understand where a market is going and identify what our customers are thinking so that we can innovate in the future.

 Leaders surprise the market. 

 Leaders have the courage to innovate slightly ahead of the curve.

 Leaders realize it is lonely at the top. 

 Leaders create next practices.  Best practices are for the middle of the pack.  For those who wish to be like their competitors and not stand out. 

 When this comes up again in conversation at your company, ask how you can develop next practices.  See where it takes you. 

 All the best, Bob

By: Bob Pearson

Bob is the President of W2O Group, an independent network of digital communications and marketing companies. He is an author, frequent speaker and instructor for Rutgers center for management development. After the success of his book Pre-Commerce, Bob is currently working on a new book on the future of media titled Storytizing that will be available in 2014. Prior to W2O Group, Bob worked as VP of Communities and Conversations at Dell to develop the Fortune 500’s first global social media function -- an industry-leading approach to the use of social media, as highlighted in the best seller, GroundSwell. Before Dell, Bob was Head of Global Corporate Communications and Head of Global Pharma Communications at Novartis Pharmaceuticals in Basel, Switzerland, where he served on the Pharma Executive Committee. He also serves on a variety of Boards in health and technology. Highlights include serving as an original member of the P&G digital advisory board and being appointed by the Governor of Texas to serve as chair and vice chair of the emerging technology fund for the State of Texas.

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6 Responses

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  1. Ken Faenza said


    Your point is on Next Practices needing attention is a good one, but it shouldn’t come at the cost of looking at Best Practices. Best Practice finding, sharing and applying should always be an on going process in any solid organization. But as an organization approaches the top of their industry or market, the availability of New Best Practices becomes scarcer – quite possibly because they are now the leader and are being chased. I don’t believe the effort of continuing to look for Best Practices at this point becomes fruitless or wasteful.

    In the process of Continuous Improvement in an organization, the effort is focused on finding the best ways to do things to improve efficiency, quality, customer satisfaction, etc. When trying to improve a product or method, the first thing you do is evaluate known solutions or options – i.e potential Best Practices. Why? Because it is the path of least resistance – a known working solution available without the experimentation burden attached to it. As an organization continues to strive for improvement, they are forced to look at the levers in the production process or business methods that bring the most bang for their buck or effort. This eventually leads them back to the Best Practices they have already installed, looking at how to improve them or revolutionize their methods. This leads to the evolution of Next Practices – which is exactly what great organizations have been giving us to chase as Best Practices.

    So in summary, I feel that the process of continuous improvement encourages Best Practice deployment which in turn will borne Next Practice ideas as an organization advances and starts to lead its market or industry. But Best Practice deployment is too valuable and easy to achieve to be ignored with a shift of focus to mainly Next Practice development. Next Practice development is the enhanced by the deployment of Best Practices during a continuous improvement process of an organization. Ignoring Best Practices to focus on Next Practice development is dangerous to an organization’s core.


  2. Ken, well said and I agree. In writing a simple blog post, I skipped an important chapter. Ignorance is not bliss. In fact, one of the revolutions in business relates to quality improvement and business process improvement geared towards best practices, which is most often leading to incremental innovation. Google is a great example. It was the 16th search engine, not the 1st. My main point is that too many companies stop thinking at the best practice level and end up repeating the past, rather than pushing themselves to look at what is around the corner. In today’s world, particularly online, it is very easy to see what customers actually want today vs. what they desired three months ago, for example, and yet best practice research models don’t take you there…yet. Inside, companies, I see too many examples where best practices lead to replication of what technology has been used for years, rather than looking at what technology platforms might completely change how business is done. IT infrastructures, for example, spend 75% of their money supporting legacy systems, rather than investing in what’s more efficient and effective or taking a chance on what could be. A great example is how has/is changing CRM. Far more efficient than what companies were using for years and many are still using.
    The other thing I’m getting at here is technology innovation. Companies need the courage/we all need the courage to move beyond current practice, sometimes developing a new way to work. We went through this at Dell when we introduced in 07 and started to receive direct ideas from customers on a daily basis. Talk about a refreshing breeze coming in the door every day from customers. Very cool.
    Overall, let’s call it a “tie” in the spirit of World Cup Soccer. You are right on knowing best practices, which is foundational to success, and I believe I’m right on ensuring we stretch beyond that to lead, innovate and create next practices. The future will show who wins in penalty kicks. All the best, Bob

Continuing the Discussion

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