I love a good rant, and today, we have a great innovation rant from our friend Woody Bendle. What’s got Woody ranting today? Best Practices. Note to self . . . don’t mention Best Practices around Woody. Here’s why:

An Innovation Rant about Best Practices by Woody Bendle

Ranting-Woody-Bendle2I don’t want to get off on an innovation rant here, but I was in an office the other day waiting for an appointment, picked up an industry trade publication, and started flipping through it. This was an industry trade publication COMPLETELY different from anything I would normally look at, but something caught my attention. Then I just got fired up. There was a piece talking about benchmarking and industry best practices. There it was . . . BEST   PRACTICES!

I HATE the expression “Best Practices!”

Well, maybe I really don’t hate the expression, but rather what this phrase represents (or doesn’t) for innovation in many businesses today.

No, on second thought, I really do hate it!

How many times in your career have you heard, “What we need to do is some category benchmarking and our goal is to adopt industry best practices.” Blah-blah-blah… snore-ing!

Ultimately, what “best practices” really means is this: “Let’s try to be more like the guys who are currently kicking our butts, and maybe they won’t be kicking our butts anymore!”

That’s pretty inspiring huh?!

The problem with adopting someone else’s “best practices” is by the time you’ve adopted their practices and processes, you’re still behind!  You can bet they’ve already developed a whole new set of best practices, and you’re going to have to catch up all over again!  That’s why they’ve been the best!

And another thing!

Best is SINGULAR. Best is without peer! Best is best. You can’t have two bests! I checked the dictionary; Merriam-Webster will back me up on this one.

If you’re just trying to employ the current industry best practices from your own market, what you are maybe doing is adopting potentially better practices than the ones you’ve been using. That sort of sounds like process improvement to me! Can you say Six-Sigma?  Which is fine! I’m a huge fan of Lean and Continuous improvement!  But, this isn’t adopting industry best practices! Remember? There’s only one best! (see above)

I guess the thing that bothers me most about adopting or employing “best practices” is that it just feels really lazy. I mean come on! You’ve got to be better than that! Right?!  Don’t your employees deserve better? Don’t your shareholders deserve better? And you can’t tell me that your customers don’t deserve better!

How about we CREATE our OWN Best Practices?! Our own unparalleled best practices! Practices that are soooo BEST that we’re the ones kicking butt!

Don’t jump the shark! Leapfrog your competition! Jump so far beyond your category’s current production possibilities frontier that you land in another galaxy!

So, come on . . . Embrace innovation!

Let’s do something no one has ever done before!

Let’s create practices and processes that no one has ever thought of before!

Let’s use our minds!

Let’s use our imaginations!

Let’s use our ingenuity!

Let’s get on with innovation and kick some butt! – Woody Bendle



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5 Responses to “An Innovation Rant about Best Practices by Woody Bendle”

  1. Inspiring – thanks for a much needed Monday morning boost!

  2. paul4innovating says:


    Best practices just make me mad. They are a comfort blanket for those that have fears and nightmares and need a good bed time story to make them feel secure. The problem is they don’t cure, they actually put off the day when you really get confronted.

    For me the Cynefin model offers the path of practice. If you want “simple”- best practice helps in this. You seek an orderly, predictable, incremental path. So many love operating in that space

    When it gets a little more complicated you need to look around for good practice that might come more from external viewpoints. Knowing what is good practice is not self-evident

    Then we move into the space where ‘real’ innovation begins- the complex one. You need to probe more, sense and tease out insights and then piece it all together in a new response. Best practice here is useless, it is emergent practice as it (should be) unique

    Then you have those really disruptive moments, where a sense of chaos dominates, This is where nothing but novel practice works. You need to stabilize quickly and that requires using all YOUR senses and experience as all other practice application will fail as it is unique to you.

    Then the last is disorder, when markets completely break down, the big ‘melt’ This no practices can truly prepare you for- it becomes based on personal preference in the actions and interpretations.

    The other one to watch for is how quickly you can slip over a cliff from simple to chaos, as your mistaken myths, beliefs, practices hit the crisis point, brought about by the complacency zone that best practices lulled you into believing these were your answer. You become increasingly vulnerable to rapid change the more you remain “simple” stuck with other peoples best practices.

    This model- the Cynefn model is the work of David Snowden and Cognitive Edge.

  3. Bradley Woody Bendle says:

    Amen to that Mike!


  1. An Innovation Rant about Best Practices by Wood... - July 22, 2013

    […] I love a good rant, and today, we have a great innovation rant from our friend Woody Bendle. What's got Woody ranting today? Best Practices. Note to self . . . don't mention Best Practices around W…  […]