Looking For Best Practice May Not Be
The Best Practice

Let me get a few things off my chest. There"s a number of phrases and words that are starting to irritate me. I shouldn"t have that reaction, but I do. Here"s some of them: "Change is the only constant." "Paradigm shift." "Right-sizing." "The year 2000." "Right-brain." "Let's agree to disagree." "People are our greatest resource." And the one that really gets to me lately, "Let's not re-invent the wheel."

Why the heck shouldn"t we re-invent the wheel? When Grog invented the first wheel, can you imagine his buddies saying, "Good for you Grog, that's the last time anyone will ever do that!" What we can"t re-invent is the shape ‘round" because we didn"t invent it in the first place — God did. Humans took nature"s gift of ‘round" and learned to make wheels with it. We"ve learned to invent lots of things with round — why can"t we continue to invent new wheels? Shape is a natural resource for us to use creatively and responsibly like all resources in the universe. Round does not have an end in itself.

The way to avoid re-inventing the wheel, corporations have discovered, is to engage in something called "Best Practice." This is an event where people from one company go and visit another company that they feel does something better than anybody else. The visitors then bring home everything they learned and try to integrate this ‘Best Practice" into their own not-so-good systems and structures.

(Am I crazy or do all the Best Practice companies seem to be located in the south? No wonder we love making these trips. Thank God for site visits.)

My concern is that we run the danger of becoming corporations of mimics. Sometimes that may be due to laziness. It's easier to photocopy the Value Statements from another company than to create your own. Sometimes it may be due to fear of failure — what if we try to re-invent something and can"t? Sometimes we simply want to be expedient and get whatever it is behind us instead of spending two years on a Task Force. There are lots of reasons to look for Best Practice.

But ‘Best Practice" may not be the best practice for three reasons.

1. Where did those with the current ‘Best Practice" get it from? If they got their ideas from somebody else, you"re visiting the wrong people. If ‘Best Practice" was the result of their own innovation, then they're probably planning to move on to something even better. Innovation is an innate part of who they are. You"re going to be left looking at last year"s model. You"ll never catch up with the front runners. Innovators, by definition, are always one step ahead.

2. The creators of change always have the highest commitment to change. It is only through creativity, not replication, that we have the chance to be fully and humanly present in our world, committed to creating the life we yearn for. There are artists who paint replicas of famous paintings. Sometimes this is called forgery though we"ll not explore that part of the metaphor at this time. There can be no argument that these ‘replicators" have incredible talent, just like we all do in one way or another. They are involved in the artist's version of ‘Best Practice." While you can name several of the Masters who have influenced the world so greatly, I"ll bet you can"t name one copy artist. And if you could, who would care? ‘Best Practice" replication may stop your organization from discovering its own Rembrandts, Monets and Renoirs.

3. Those who swear by Best Practice strategies will be quick to point out that one doesn"t just mindlessly duplicate what another organization does. You take their ideas, you adjust and modify, you tweak and polish. You customize the Best Practice to fit your own unique situation. Sounds reasonable at first, doesn"t it?

Let's take a young Renoir who wants only to express his soul on canvas, just like all of us yearn to express our souls in some way. We could say to him, "We want you to paint a great picture that comes from within you and that expresses how you see life." And off he would go to give birth. Or we could yell after him, "By the way, the picture must include a bunch of grapes and a dead pheasant." What do you think would happen to his creative genius with this added instruction? Of course there are such ‘givens" in our corporate worlds. But the more of them you have, the less freedom there is to truly create. The true artist will accept nothing less than the blank canvas. Nothing calls for innovation more than nothing. When we know of no other way to innovate than to start with Best Practice, the canvas is already three-quarters full. You are selling yourself and your people short.

So, please — re-invent the wheel! Grog won"t mind. Now, there"s a Best Practice wheel manufacturer located just off the coast of Greece ….

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"Copyright The Ian Percy Corporation."
Ian Percy is one of North America's most inspirational speakers.

Ian Percy is an international speaker and consultant and can be reached at www.ianpercy.com


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