Is Best Practice the best way?

Best practice seems an obviously good idea in business. We find out the best way in which things are done in our industry or market and then apply it in our own activities. What's not to like about this?

If another organisation has figured something out and invested resources in doing something (and it works), why reinvent the wheel? This has obvious applications in regulated sectors, including for example finance, but also healthcare. In fact, it's something that everyone should be mindful of, not least as a kind of benchmark.

However, there are a number of caveats to bear in mind:

Firstly, how we can assume that there's accurate information about what everyone is doing and the results they are getting? If processes are so valuable, they will most likely be kept as confidential as possible. And even if they are not so confidential, there are always costs to acquiring information.

Secondly, what works in one organisation or location may not necessarily work in another. It's easy to think in terms of importing ideas, but not quite so feasible to achieve in reality.

Thirdly, best practice is inherently a historical concept - it's already happening, or happened. Searching for this can at best only get us to the status quo and tells us little about the future.

Finally, and related to the previous point, best practice can in fact prove limiting, being seen as the maximum an organisation can aspire to. Far better to take it as a base case (if we can access this) and then build on it.

So there we are - good ideas are always welcome, but we should be careful that we don't let them lead us into a false sense of security. After all, ideas themselves should be as dynamic as the situations they seek to explain.


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