Dumbing down

Among the many inane management mantras is the concept of “best practices”, the notion that companies should model themselves after the companies who are the “best performing” in their industry. Follow their lead, says the theory, and your company’s performance will improve as well.


Except that it’s a false path. There are certainly lessons to be learned from other companies in your industry and in other industries – that’s why we all read Fast Company.


Scott Anthony, a consultant and author recently blogged for Harvard Business Publishing: 

Before blindly copying a competitor’s best practice, or assuming a historic best practice will continue to provide positive results, ask three questions: • Are market circumstances similar?
• Are corporate contexts similar?
• Is the practice “modular,” with few interactions with other corporate systems?
 If the answers to these questions are yes, then mimicking best practice can succeed. If the answer to any of these questions are no, think twice. Following so-called best practice might lead to disappointing results. 

Mimicking can be a good starting point. It must not be the ending point, for as fast as you are trying to copy the next guy, they’re moving on. A strategy of mimicking “best practices” is a dumbing down strategy – it presumes that the current leader is the best that can be done. But it’s not – there is always a better way. Discovering that better way is what managers are paid to do. PL