Are Best Practices Really Best?

A few weeks ago, worldwide members of Cornerstone International Group met in Greece for three days of discussing best practices in retained executive search.

We do it each year. The pursuit of Best Practices, finding out what are the best ways of meeting a business challenge and then adopting the process – most often thanks to someone else’s efforts – is assumed to be the optimum solution. A Golden Rule.

But some people question that.

One of them is Tim Sackett, a leading authority on HR and writer for the Fistful of Talent HR blog.

According to Sackett, best practices won’t make HR better; they just make it the same.

“Innovation, creativity and thought leadership make HR better,” argues Sackett. “So, if all you’re doing is picking up HR best practices from your competition, from other industries, from your peers—you aren’t pushing HR forward, you’re actually just pushing HR to the middle.”

So were we all wasting our breath in Cape Sounio?

Not at all. Sharing best practices is not writing a step-by-step manual. With over 70 offices in 28 countries, there is no one way that is going to be “best” for everyone. So the real opportunity behind best practices is to learn how someone is achieving results and understanding why.

If you take that approach, you will continue the process of innovation by making the practice work specifically for you and your challenge.

Yes, there is a hidden danger in pursuing best practices. There is a risk that instead of making you a “leading organization,” they make you a “following” organization. But that’s the same risk that you face buying a magic product that will change your life but you don’t know how. It’s the risk of intellectual laziness.

Best practices will continue to work not least because truly doing something different than your competition is in itself a best practice. Continually striving to improve something, to be better than a competitor, to innovate, to be the best. That’s a best practice.

Credits: Next Practices

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