Thursday, April 26, 2018

Common Practices Aren’t Best Practices

It pains me, still, that imitating the competition is still rampant even in innovation efforts.   Inevitably, someone says “let’s see what other companies are doing” as a means to generate “new” ideas, generally followed by the insistence that it’s “new to us” when someone points out the obvious.  And all too often asking if any other company is already doing something similar is the first sign that an innovative idea is headed for the scrap heap without any further consideration.

The same problems arise at most firms – their attempt to distinguish themselves leads instead to the practice of imitating one another, and doing so mindlessly.   As a consequence, the common practices in any industry are seldom based on an examination of the results they achieve, but merely on their being done by others, on the assumption that they wouldn’t be doing something if it weren’t getting good results.  

Not only are the common practices adopted without question, they also tend to be practiced without question.   There is no question of their foundations, no research into their soundness, and no testing of their performance.   They are adopted without inspection and perpetuated without validation, often in spite of evidence that they are unproductive or even harmful.  This is not merely egregiously unwise, but reckless.

Compounding the problem, many firms turn to agencies and design firms, who have even less knowledge of their industry or their customer, to show them the way.   There is a great deal of bluster and precious little knowledge in these firms, yet their opinions seem to be regarded as reliable advice from reliable professionals – until the numbers come in sour, and then the firm hires a different agency to repeat the same cycle.  And given the recent shortening in executive tenure, even the decision-maker who engaged the firm is long gone by the time the damage is done.

But back on topic, the common practices of an industry may not yield good results at all, and even if they happen to be based on sound reasoning, it doesn’t mean they are practicable or applicable given the unique nature of your firm, goals, and market segment.    No-one can say for certain what will work for a given firm, and often it is not questioned whether it had positive results elsewhere.  The result seems to be the death of innovation, while under the banner of innovation we see a frenzy of imitating with reckless abandon.

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