How many times have you, in your current or past jobs, been tasked to find best practices? Your boss probably said to you "Hey, we're doing a new X for client Z. I need you to find best practices on that". If you're like most people, you immediately go to Google and search for "best practices for X". Sound familiar?
In a world where new innovations are only a mouse click away, why do we place so much value on best practices. Shouldn't we look at best practices as a starting point instead of the ending point? Do you think Google looked at online search best practices and said "Hey look, let's just do what Yahoo is doing"? Not at all. They took Yahoo, used it as a foundation, build stronger algorithms and fought for white space. The result is a superior product that allowed them to expand into unforeseeable new territory.
Wikipedia defines a best practice as "a management idea which asserts that there is a technique, method, process, activity, incentive or reward that is more effective at delivering a particular outcome than any other technique, method, process, etc."
The problem with the definition, and my overall contention with the idea, is that these are only the best known practices. The real potential is in the unknown. That is where market leaders are born and exponential growth is realized. When companies look at so-called best practices, what are they looking for? I think a lot of companies just want to be average. They want to be on par, but not put in the work to push the envelope.
At the end of the day, the RIGHT practices are what matter. The right practices are tailored to the needs of the company and the realities of the market in which they compete. Best practices should only be a starting point. They should be a map of the known that makes expanding into the unknown possible.
Have you ever relied on best practice information only to find that you could have done better? How have you used that information as a baseline for innovation? What steps should companies take to great their own right practices?