Making Your Benchmark II

Last August, I came across an online benchmarking service. Now, Seth Godin, challenges the very notion of benchmarking.

I can benchmark everything now. The problem with benchmarking is that nothing but continuous improvement (except maybe spectacular results) satisfies very much. In the old days, data was a lot harder to come by. Benchmarking has the inexorable ability to make the mediocre better than average, and it pushes us to always outperform. But it stresses us out. A benchmarked service business or product (or even a benchmarked relationship) is always under pressure. In addition to the stress, benchmarking against the universe actually encourages us to be mediocre, to be average, to just do what everyone else is doing.

I have a similar problem with best practices. Rather than adopting another organization’s recipe or success — or merely keeping pace with other companies — how can we better use benchmarks and best practices not just to gauge how well we’re doing, but to do even better? How can we use benchmarks, not be used by them?