There are Better Practices to “Best Practices” | 28 Jun 2023

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

Albert Einstein

In today's fast-paced and constantly evolving world, the concepts of "best" and "better" have taken on a new level of significance. The distinction between the two words is not only important but critical to understanding how to thrive in today's society. Being the "best" at something implies that one has reached the peak of one’s potential, while being "better" means that there is still room for growth and improvement.

The concept of "best practices" has become commonplace in the business world as a means of promoting efficiency, consistency, and excellence. However, it's worth noting that the notion of best practices is often flawed, and there are several better practices that can be implemented instead.

One of the primary issues with best practices is that they tend to be overly generalized. When an organization adopts a best practice, they're essentially trying to replicate a process that has been successful in other contexts. However, what works well for one company or team may not necessarily work for another. This is because there are a multitude of variables that can impact the efficacy of a given practice, such as team size, industry, organizational culture, and more. Therefore, blindly adopting a best practice can lead to suboptimal outcomes.

Another limitation of best practices is that they often prioritize short-term gains over long-term sustainability. For example, a company may adopt a best practice that streamlines a particular process and results in a temporary boost in productivity. However, if that process isn't aligned with the company's broader strategic goals, it may ultimately hinder the organization's ability to adapt to changing circumstances or achieve its long-term objectives. In this sense, best practices can be somewhat myopic, focusing on immediate improvements rather than sustainable growth.

To be the best is an ideal that many individuals and companies strive for, whether it be the best athlete, the best company, or the best product. However, the problem with being the best is that it is a fleeting state. What is considered the best today may not be considered the best tomorrow. The world is constantly changing, and with it, the criteria for what is considered the best. Therefore, striving to be the best is not only unsustainable but also counterproductive.

Additionally, best practices can create a sense of complacency within organizations. When companies rely too heavily on established best practices, they may become resistant to change or innovation. This is because they feel that they've already found the optimal solution, and any deviation from that path is seen as unnecessary or risky. However, in a rapidly changing business environment, it's often the case that established best practices become outdated or ineffective. In these situations, organizations that are too reliant on those practices may struggle to adapt and remain competitive.

Rather than blindly adopting a best practice, organizations should take the time to understand the unique context in which they operate. This means considering factors such as organizational culture, team size and composition, industry trends, and more. By taking a more nuanced approach, companies can tailor their processes and practices to better suit their specific needs, rather than relying on a one-size-fits-all solution.

Rather than assuming that established best practices are the optimal solution, organizations should be open to experimentation and iteration. By testing new approaches and measuring their effectiveness, companies can continuously refine their processes and practices. This approach allows for greater agility and adaptability, as organizations are better able to respond to changing circumstances and evolving industry trends.

Rather than relying solely on internal expertise, organizations should seek out external perspectives and collaborate with others in their industry. This can involve partnering with other companies, participating in industry associations, or simply seeking out the insights of thought leaders and experts. By leveraging a diversity of perspectives and expertise, organizations can gain a broader understanding of the challenges they face and the opportunities available to them.

Organizations should embrace a mindset of continuous learning and evolution when it comes to their processes and practices, instead of assuming that established best practices are always the optimal solution. This can involve investing in training and development programs, encouraging cross-functional collaboration and knowledge-sharing, and seeking out opportunities to learn from mistakes and failures. By prioritizing continuous learning, organizations can remain agile and adaptable, even in the face of rapid change.

Striving to be "better" acknowledges the fact that there is always room for improvement. The quest to be better is a journey rather than a destination. It is an ongoing process that requires constant self-reflection, growth, and change. The beauty of striving to be better is that there is always something to work on, whether it be a personal or professional aspect of life. By focusing on being better, individuals and companies can adapt to changing circumstances and remain relevant and meaningful in a constantly evolving world.

In the corporate world, companies that focus on being the best often fall into the trap of complacency. They become so fixated on maintaining their position as the best that they fail to adapt to changing market trends and consumer preferences. In contrast, companies that focus on being better are always looking for ways to improve and innovate. They are willing to take risks and embrace change, which allows them to stay ahead of the curve.

One example of a company that focuses on being better rather than the best is Amazon. Amazon started as an online bookstore but has since grown into one of the largest retailers in the world. However, Jeff Bezos, Amazon's founder, has always emphasized the importance of being customer-centric and continuously improving the customer experience. This focus on being better has allowed Amazon to stay relevant and meaningful in a constantly changing retail landscape.

Another example of the importance of being better is in the field of athletics. Athletes who focus solely on being the best often suffer from burnout and injury. In contrast, athletes who focus on being better are more likely to have sustainable success. They understand that there is always room for improvement and that the quest for perfection is a never-ending journey. By focusing on being better, athletes can make incremental improvements that can add up over time.

The same concept applies to personal growth and development. Individuals who focus on being the best often fall into the trap of comparing themselves to others. They become fixated on external validation and lose sight of their personal goals and values. In contrast, individuals who focus on being better are more likely to have a growth mindset. They understand that failure and setbacks are opportunities for learning and growth. By focusing on being better, individuals can develop the skills and qualities necessary to lead fulfilling and meaningful lives.

The distinction between being the best and being better is not just a matter of semantics. It is a fundamental shift in mindset that can have a significant impact on personal and professional success.

“To improve is to change, so to be perfect is to have changed often.”

Winston Churchill