For many leaders “best practice” is the critical benchmark they aspire to. Focusing on implementing what’s commonly acknowledged as being the best approach. Problem is, in many cases that results in setting your sights too low…
Good. Better. Best. That’s how the scale typically goes. However when it comes to innovation it’s better (not best!) to reorder the scale. Good. Best. Better.
To understand why, step back and take a systems level view. For a process to become established as best practice it first has to go through a sequence of steps – including development, trial, measurement, documentation, peer review, publication, distribution, analysis, structuring, training then finally implementation.
Which also helps explain why “overnight change” can often take a decade to occur. While technology can accelerate some of these steps – such as the distribution of published information – many are inherently slow processes.
By definition best practice requires evidence that it is in fact considered to be the best. Which requires time for it to be implemented in multiple instances, followed by time to establish a reliable pattern of results. While this may be relatively fast with simple online tests (e.g. which headline generates more clicks) when dealing with complex social change this can often be a multi-year step.
However time waits for no-one. So while best practice is slowly being proven, new – potentially even better– practices are busy emerging.
Again take a systems view of this. While many of the unproven new ideas being tried by others may be no better, the scale that society operates at means that somewhere in the haystack of innovation failures will be the needle of future success.
So what best… or better… to do?
Firstly continue to seek out and embrace best practice. Where others have proven there’s a better approach than your current method, leverage their learnings.
However understand that’s just half the picture. That alongside “business as usual” you also need to innovate and operate “business as unusual.” Or as Tony Robbins compellingly frames it you need to lead two businesses – the business you’re in and the business you’re becoming.
In other words don’t just think “best practice.”
Also now think “new practice.”
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